“In a world full of bosses, he was his own master.”
So here’s the first book review. I wanted to start with one of those classic (but not-really-classic) books that doesn’t really fit under one specific genre, and that everybody would love to read and relate to.
The first time I saw this book, in a cupboard at my cousin’s place, I was surprised because I had watched the movie and had never known it was based on a book. I took the book and started reading as soon as I possibly could.
The book I’m reviewing today, is Marley & Me. Written by John Grogan, the book is set in the 1990s in southern Florida. Most of us know this story – we’ve watched the movie at some point of time, but take my advice, and read the written account . (I am a firm believer in the idea that a movie adaptation cannot do justice to a book, no matter how good it is).
John and his wife, Jenny, set out to buy themselves a puppy. Not for the usual reasons, but because Jenny kills a plant. (Do read the book for the actual, comic explanation.) As usual, after a lot of debate (if you’ve ever had to name a dog, you’d understand this bit so well), they settle on the name Marley, after singer Bob Marley.
Marley is everything a pet dog shouldn’t be. He chews through everything he can set his eyes on, gets destructive when left alone for long times, and snatches anything left on the table (the author details one incident where Marley swallows his wife’s gold chain and how he retrieves it from his Retriever.)
As the book lists Marley’s flaws, it shows how he becomes an integral part of the family. The story goes on, the couple have three children, Patrick, Connor and Colleen, who love Marley and treat him like their sibling, and are the most affected when Marley eventually passes away (I know, I cried my way through that part).
The story is set in three different locations, showing us how the family shifts twice after Marley entered their life (not due to Marley though, thankfully). The simple beauty of the book lies in how the author makes Marley seem like a person, with feelings and how Marley played a role in every little thing that happened in their life – Marley shares their sorrows, multiplies their joys and makes them a complete family. Though he must have cost them a few thousand dollars in terms of repairs and medication, he was worth all of it.
Once, when Jenny just can’t take anymore of Marley’s destructive tendencies, and asks John to take him away from their home, John realizes just how much the dog means to him.
In his own words,
“As pathetic as it sounds, Marley had become my soul-mate, my near-constant companion, my friend. He was the undisciplined, recalcitrant, nonconformist, politically incorrect free spirit I had always wanted to be, had I been brave enough, and I took vicarious joy in his unbridled nerve. No matter how complicated life became, he reminded me of its simple joys. No matter how many demands were placed on me, he never let me forget that wilful disobedience is sometimes worth the price. In a world full of bosses, he was his own master.”
(Jenny, of course, never did let Marley leave. How would she?!)
As the years roll, Marley becomes old, and finally, is put to sleep when he has a major complication in his stomach and surgery wouldn’t really help him at his age (he’s 13 when he dies.) Having watched the movie, you think you’ve braced yourself for the end, (I even armed myself with a large tissue), but when you see how the dog slowly gets old and dies eventually, and how each member of the family misses him, you cannot do anything but cry.
Also, if, at some point, you’ve had a dog, you can relate to this book on an entirely different level, which is what happened to me. I currently have three dogs at my home and each one means so much to me that life without them right now seems unimaginable.
Through the pages, we see Marley attend obedience classes (and miserably fail), serve as a constant companion to Jenny through a miscarriage and three pregnancies, get a role in a movie, and learn to live with chicken at their countryside home (the dog does go through a lot!)
We also see how he falls sick, gets ear infections (and loses his hearing eventually), is unable to climb stairs or run and has more such problems, but until the end of the story, Marley remains a mischievous, disobedient, insolent dog, and you end up loving him for it.
Though the book tells you everything the dog does, which definitely wouldn’t merit him a place on a list of good dogs, it makes you fall in love with a flawed creature, perfect in his own way.
As the author puts it,
“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.
Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness, and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
“Despite everything, all the disappointments and unmet expectations, Marley had given us a gift, at once priceless and free. He taught us the art of unqualified love. How to give it, how to accept it. When there is that, most of the other pieces fall into place.”
What are you even waiting for? Go get the book and read it. You’re going to thoroughly enjoy it. I did. And do tell me how you felt reading it! 🙂