A review of A Dog’s Purpose
by Bruce Cameron
I was recommended this book by a dear friend of mine while we were relaxing by Lake Tahoe this summer. She was reading it at the time, and not only did she rave about this book for the hours she spent reading it by the lake, but she also forced me to watch the trailer for the upcoming movie with her. I conceded because I figured it would be an easy read, and at the very least be a heartwarming, adorable book because dogs are the BEST.(…well, okay, maybe I think cats are the BEST, but dogs are a very close second.) Either way, I was convinced. I immediately went to the website for my local library and got myself on the waiting list to get this eBook. (Normally I’m not an eBook person, but when I’m busy during the school year, its easier to get the book on my iPad than it is to go to the library and pick up a hard copy.) I was not surprised to see that there were ~25 people ahead of me in line, so I had to wait around 3 months for it to become available. Once it was my turn, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was only around 150 pages so I could easily knock it out in a day or two. I whipped it out as I took my seat on the airplane bringing me home for the holidays, and finished the book right before landing in California (it was a ~2 hour flight).
This book is seen entirely through the view of the dog, whose name changes throughout the story as it is reincarnated in various lives. After a heartbreaking, short life as a stray mutt whose life ends at a shelter, the main character finds himself reincarnated as a golden-haired puppy in a puppy mill. After a daring escape, he finds his way to a loving family, where he is given the name Bailey and quickly falls in love with 8-year old Ethan. Ethan and Bailey become an inseparable pair and spend their days adventuring until Ethan grows up and goes off to college, leaving Bailey at home in his old age. After a long and full life, Bailey crosses the rainbow bridge and is shocked to find himself reincarnated as another puppy. As we watch Bailey’s spirit go through multiple lives, we see him search for something that many humans spend their days looking for: the purpose of life.
I have to start this review with a disclaimer that it made me cry in public. If you don’t know how awkward it is to randomly start crying while locked in close quarter with a complete stranger and nowhere to escape, let me tell you. It’s AWKWARD. Like seagull-stealing-your-hotdog-in-front-of-a-crowd awkward (yes, that actually happened to me). Now, this book may have made me sad-happy cry, but it was a hugely heartwarming book. If you’re an animal person, you’ll love it. Similarly, if you have a heart at all, you’ll love it. If you like to ask life’s big existential questions like I do, you’ll love it. It’s fascinating to think about the idea of reincarnation and that each thing you learn in one life helps you find the purpose of your next life, which is exactly what you see in this book. Not only that, but you see a pet’s undying love for its human, and are transported into the mind of a devoted animal whose human is his entire world. To be 100% honest, what I liked most about this book is the idea of seeing the entire thing from a dog’s point of view. It really makes you wonder what goes on in your pet’s heads all the time. Do they know things that we don’t? Do they totally misunderstand the things we do? What do they do while we’re not at home? Why don’t they like belly rubs? These are life’s big questions! (Obviously my priorities are totally in order.)
My recommendations: Cameron did a fantastic job of portraying things from the dog’s view, and provided plenty of laughs throughout the book along with some thought-provoking scenarios. Not only that, but this book is a quick, easy read, so I would definitely recommend it. Since it only provided me with a couple of hours of reading, I don’t know that I would go to the store and spend more than $10 on it, but if you can find it at a used book store or library, GO FOR IT! I will definitely go see the movie when it comes out (I’ll make sure to bring some tissues for my ugly crying). Now, Cameron did write more books in this series as expansions to some of the dog’s lives, but A Dog’s Purpose felt more than complete to me; I feel no need to read the sequels, and probably never will.