Kate Atkinson recently tackled the rather weighty concept of reincarnation with her trainwreck of a novel, Life After Life. Reincarnation is not a frequently encountered literary topic, so I was surprised to stumble upon it again less than a week after wrapping up the Atkinson mess. I was even more surprised that it was in a book about a dog.
Written in the same vein as The Art of Racing in the Rain, W. Bruce Cameron’s A Dog’s Purpose is told from the perspective of one dog, a dog that is reincarnated several times in order to fulfill its purpose. In going through several names, situations, and genders, this pooch’s purpose is ultimately made clear during life #2. As a puppy, Bailey immediately bonds with his boy and the two grow up together. Bailey dies an old dog and lives several subsequent lives, but he always remembers the happy life that he lived with his boy. When he is reborn yet again as Buddy, though, he finds himself in familiar territory and embarks on a quest to relocate his friend.
I am a total sucker for stories and books that reveal the inner workings of a dog’s mind, but Wilfred and The Art of Racing in the Rain are completely subpar when compared to Cameron’s novel. Although obviously an interpretation of what a human assumes a dog thinks about, it is easy to forget that these are not the musings of an actual dog. A dog doesn’t understand why he should be locked in the garage while his owners are away, thus he clearly must find ways to entertain himsef. Things that elicit anger from the typical dog owner are revealed to be the desperate actions of a lonely canine trough Cameron’s flawless narration. This is a must-read for animal-lovers, but perhaps more so for those needing a better understanding of man’s best friend.