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Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose

People have eagerly awaited the recent production and release of “A Dog’s Purpose.” The movie was released Jan. 27, and was based on the 2010 novel of the same name by humorist W. Bruce Cameron.

A few weeks before the release of the book, video footage of one of the dogs used in the movie filming was leaked online. The German shepard being filmed was scared and roughly forced into fast-moving water, while the dog desperately attempted to stay on the land with their handler. The subsequent outcry from animal rights activists and people who were appalled by the video began a protest against the film.

Perhaps if this is how you feel about the new movie, or you are just looking for a heart-warming tale about a cute dog to read, I recommend reading A Dog’s Purpose instead. The novel chronicles the birth of a puppy and the dog’s several lives as the dog continually reincarnates and searches for his purpose within each of his different lives. The novel was a New York Times bestseller for forty-nine weeks.

Goodreads explains that the novel is “more than just another charming dog story, this [book] touches on the universal quest for an answer to life’s most basic question: Why are we here?”

The novel is written from the point of view of a dog who initially knows nothing about the world and his surroundings. It offers a unique and innocent look at the world around us, one riddled with humorous descriptions of things, emotions, and the way the dog sees the world around him. “Dogs have important jobs,” Cameron writes. “Like barking when the doorbell rings. But cats have no function in a house whatsoever.” Humor like this sets the book up to be an amusing read, or so I thought.

As the storyline progresses, and the dog travels throughout his different lives, one thing remains the same each time: the dog will die. And it will be sad. The overwhelming feelings of disappointment and sadness do not go away the third, fourth, or even fifth time you read about the same dog’s death.

Even the humorous words of the dog upon the death of his family’s cat did little to console my feelings of sadness with a brighter, funnier moment in the novel. In fact, hearing about how he “nuzzled both [his owners] to remind them that there was really no need to grieve, since I was okay and really a much better pet than Smokey [the cat] ever was” perhaps makes it even harder when he dies after becoming so attached to the cute and amusing ways of the dog.

Even the knowledge that he would reincarnate again did little to hold back my feelings of loss. Cameron does an exceptional job at provoking feelings of your own loss: the loss of a loved pet, the loss of a good book character, and the loss of the dog’s certainty of his purpose.

With each new life, the dog discovered he had a new purpose, a purpose that built upon his past life experiences and skills. A purpose that only he could fulfil. And don’t we all? While written about the loving bond between humans and dogs, this book also touches upon our roles in our own worlds. What are our purposes? If you’re looking for a heart-warming, tear-jerking read, I would wholeheartedly recommend A Dog’s Purpose. I give the book 4.5 out of 5 slices of bacon, solely because crying when the dog died yet again was not the most enjoyable way for me to appreciate the novel.

1 thought on “Book Review: A Dog’s Purpose

  1. Thank you for this review, I enjoyed the book as well. I also noticed that I was feeling sad with the death of the dog and that got me thinking.
    Why do we always feel sad when something goes away, or dies? Everything that lives must die, it is the logical implication of life. We all experience death and loss many times over, yet we always feel sad about it.
    It is such a contradiction: if life is good, and life will always lead to death, then death cannot be bad.
    Anyway, I won’t bore you with my thought processes, but this book has given me something to think about.

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