Friday, October 24, 2008

Marley & Me by John Grogan

Let me preface this review by stating a fact. I am not a dog-lover. That is to say, I like dogs... just other people's dogs. The only dog I can claim any degree of ownership of was our family dog, Muffin. Muffin came into my life when I was two and lived with our family until I was twelve. Although I am not a dog-lover I cried the day she died. She was a good dog, not a perfect dog, but certainly not the world's worst dog.

No, that title falls to the golden Labrador retriever named Marley in the book Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog. Published in 2005, Marley and Me is the true story of newspaper columnist John Grogan's dog, Marley. The book is more than a story about a dog, it's the story about a dog and his family.

The book begins when John and his wife Jenny are newlyweds living in Florida and considering getting their first dog together. They find a spirited and completely adorable yellow lab and it's love at first sight. John and Jenny have dreams of what their life will be with this new dog and how he will fit into their lives and later be a part of their family when they have children. But when Marley comes home all those dreams change. Marley is "wild as a banshee and as strong as a bull..." the "chewer of couches, a slasher of screens, a slinger of drool, a tipper of trash cans..."

Marley and Me is fun and fast-paced to read. The book is woven with all the threads of life, the highs and the lows; the comedy, tragedy, and the in between normal day-to-day moments. My sister, a dog lover, recommended this book to me on the merits that it was almost as funny as James Herriot's works. I have to agree, this book, while no Herriot tale, is still a very funny book.

One note to the potential reader: Grogan does use some mild to moderate language in the book, which did make me cringe and would probably warrant a PG-13 rating if the book was a movie. Also, there are several references to sex, but (all but once) within the state of marriage and nothing is obscene. Rather, most references are related in humor and tastefully written. However, I felt a warning necessary for some readers.

I picked up a copy of Marley & Me from my local library. Most readers should not have any difficulty finding this book as it will be released as a motion picture this Christmas starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. I'm excited about this and plan to watch the movie... although I'm certain Hollywood will have changed a lot, which is often the case when books convert to the screen.

On second thoughts, because the book is coming out as a movie next month the reader may have some difficulty finding an available copy at their local library, but only because there may be a waiting list, as was the case with one library I checked.

The copy I read was 291 pages (including Author's Acknowledgements) and took me three days to finish. While this book isn't likely to be a read-aloud to your kids, you may find yourself laughing out loud or even wanting to read sections to your spouse. At least, I did. And as a side note, my favorite was the part where Grogan has dressed his son in an upside down "onesie." The choice of words paints a vivid and hilarious picture. I laughed so hard I actually shed a few tears.

And then there were the tears of sadness too. Reading of Marley did bring back some childhood memories of our dog, Muffin. So even though I am not a dog-lover, I still could identify with this book. I think anyone who has had any interaction with a dog -- their own or someone else's --will find this book "a good read."


Anonymous said...

I just read John's latest book - The Longest Trip Home - and loved it, so this one is on my wish list.

Sarah M. said...

I didn't realize he had another book out. I see now that it just came out. I'll have to check it out.

Oh and P.S. to my readers - I found the movie trailer:

It's not going to be 100% faithful to the book, but it looks like it'll be still very funny and really good. I can't wait!

Carrie said...

I thought this book was good, generically speaking. But the language and the sex (although it is contained within the marriage relationship, as you say) were distracting to me. Of course, I might have been disturbed because someone gave it to my then 15 year old sister-in-law and I read it AFTER her and couldn't believe the topics included in a book ABOUT A DOG!

But yes, you are also right in saying it's entertaining. I just wish they would have bothered to keep it totally clean so that I could feel like it was a decent recommendation.

FYI, I'm not a dog lover either!

Sarah M. said...

I read an interview with the author and he said while it started as a book about a dog it became more -- he realized to tell Marley's story he needed to tell his wife and his story and how they came to be parents. It's a shame about the language... but I realize it could have been a lot worse and I was willing to overlook it. Was it just me or as the book progressed did the language decrease? Maybe I just got better at ignoring it.

Oh and yeah.. not really a book you should hand your child/teenager... at least before you read it yourself and decide if it's suitable for them.

ibeeeg said...

I have seen this book title floating around...I am intrigued.
Thanks to your review, I now want to read the book. to read it before the movie is released.

thebluestockingsociety said...

Sarah, congrats on finishing a book for the Lit Flicks Challenge. I read this book a year or so ago and really loved it! I am, admittedly, a dog lover, so I laughed and cried and loved. I can't wait to see the movie - even though it won't be the same.

Jessica @ The Bluestocking Society