|(image from Random House's website)|
I feel a bit awkward about it, because the book is not a novel. So my criticism of the characters is actually a criticism of real people, Brian and Pam--and that makes me feel like a jerk. Especially after watching the book's preview video. Brian and Pam both seem so nice. And I would recommend the book to others. It really was a cute story; I wanted to find out what would happen with Buddy. And I guess you don't have to like every aspect of a book to have enjoyed reading it. Alas, I am confused.
Here are my sticking points:
1) The coupling seemed ingenuine.
I didn't think the two people who make up the couple in this book had much of a clue what the other was feeling. While I was reading it, I felt like if I were Pam reading the book, I would have been learning a lot of things for the first time, and I would have been pissed off. There's no way of knowing what these two people actually did discuss in real life or not, but the book feels like a secret diary at some points, where Brian is expressing how he really feels.
Some of the feelings I'm referring to are in regards to Buddy the rooster; Brian is not a fan of Buddy at all. This is not a spoiler for you guys--it's the basis for the whole book--but I almost think it was for Pam. I have no idea if she knew how Brian felt about the rooster. And Brian also seemed to have a lot of doubts about their relationship in general and his change from living the single life in the city to living the family life in the suburbs.
While I was reading it, I kind of kept yelling in my head, "Would you just talk to her about this stuff?" I couldn't help but feel like Pam was being duped. Brian was spending a long time trying to talk himself into this new life. I can only hope that he and Pam were on the same page about all these things at some point, and the book is not Pam's first indication of any of this stuff. In the book, she comes off kind of oblivious and exhausted, more concerned about her kids and animals than about Brian. I really could not figure out why these two people were trying to make a life together when neither seemed fully invested in that idea. I realize the story was supposed to be more about the rooster and Brian, so there are likely a lot of details missing about the Pam & Brian relationship, but I had a hard time getting past this.
2) Yet again, I'm reading a book that glorifies purebred dogs from breeders and brushes off adoptable dogs from shelters and rescues as being too problematic.
Look, y'all know I'm 100% an Adopt, Don't Shop kind of gal. I will always try to sway someone to rescue a dog before buying one. But I do--I really do--understand the reasons why some people will choose a breeder. But this is not the point. The point is that it seems like all the books about rescued pets are these overly dramatic stories of tragedy and hope and overcoming having one eye or three legs or whatever. Where is the book that's just a normal book that happens to have some dogs in it, or maybe even does focus on the dog, but the dog came from a shelter instead of a breeder? Where is the book that has people deciding to get a dog and getting that dog from a local rescue organization and not making a big deal about it but just doing it?
There are two points in the book where this comes up.
The first is a story from the author's childhood involving the family bringing home a dog from the "Weymouth dog pound", the family leaving the dog alone in the house the very next day, and the family returning to the home to find it destroyed by the dog. They brought the dog back the following day. The author also made a point of describing the dog as "vacant", "gangly", and "mangy."
What's my problem with this? The dog's physical appearance and the fact that he was from the pound have very little--if anything--to do with the fact that he destroyed the family's house. You cannot get a dog and then just leave it alone the next day and expect to come back to the pup greeting you at the door with your slippers and pipe. This would have happened with any number of dogs, regardless of where the dog came from. The story could have been told without those details and not lost any of its effect.
The second time this comes up is in a story from later in Brian's life. As an adult, he got a puppy from a breeder and, after that dog had passed, when he was ready to get a new dog, he just immediately called up the same breeder. There is no mention in the book of any possible consideration of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue. Other than the negative experience with the dog from Weymouth, there's no explanation of why he chose a breeder.
3) There's a scene with a compulsion trainer--and zero discussion regarding the pitfalls of that particular training method.
Pam is a highly intelligent vet who loves animals a whole heck of a lot. Brian is a smart man who is a newspaper reporter and seems to know a lot about the world in general. It's odd to me that at no point would this come up as something to maybe use a little care with in the retelling of the story. Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive. It's a touchy subject for me.
So those are the things that upset me. But then I read the author Q&A on the Random House site and came across this gem:
Buddy showed me that, when it comes to kids, mates, people you love, being there is critical, whether it’s convenient or not. And not just being there in physical presence but investing yourself in the moment. Buddy was always there, watching his flock. He didn’t care about what happened outside of our yard, because everything he ever wanted in his life, everything that mattered, was right there.And, dammit, that almost made me cry. Because I completely agree with the sentiment.
Do you see where my dilemma comes in? I have these specific qualms with the people in the book (real people who would probably hate me if they read this), but the story is well told, the chapters well written, the point extremely well intentioned.
Maybe you should decide for yourself. Chances are, you are far more normal than I am.
Thanks to Crown Publishing and Random House, we're giving away one free copy of Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man. Want to check out an excerpt first? No problem: Click here.
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Disclaimer: I was given one copy of the book in exchange for my honest opinion. I bet they're sorry they did that. ;-)