Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.
He has reviewed books and stageplays for http://CurtainUp.com and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE
Author:K. Anne RussellPublisher:None stated
Author:K. Anne RussellPublisher:None stated
A popular T-shirt states,
"The more I know of my fellow man, the more I love my dog."
A reader of K. Anne Russell's charming and moving novel, Buddy's Tail, will have no reason to revisit or revise that observation.
This fanciful tale of Buddy and his buddies transports the reader immediately into a world of highly diverse and totally captivating canines, modestly but effectively portrayed visually by Ron Ruelle. The first of several ironies presented is that in this group, it is the "street" dog, MacKenzie, who is the principal caregiver of our owned, but severely neglected hero.
Buddy is shunted from pillar to post, peeing on all of them, with only a brief glimpse at what happiness with humans could be like. Midway through the novel, the reader feels a bit threatened when both Buddy and our narrator, MacKenzie, expire as a result of human neglect and violence, respectively. Buddy dies because a ravenous raven eats the life-sustaining treat that a petite pal was trying to bring to save him from starvation.
Life and the story go on, however, courtesy of an afterlife called Haven, administered by a Good (German) Shepherd who, like Buddy, is large and white. Buddy's earthly experiences are extended when, in the tradition of Heaven Can Wait (nee Here Comes Mr. Jordan) Buddy is given a six-year furlough from Paradise in order to revisit California.
Despite their physical resemblance, Shep and Buddy clash when, upon returning to Paradise, the latter violates Haven's code by transporting and fraternizing with the spirits of dead humans. Exhibiting a seventh sense, Buddy proves that he can do more that just see dead people.
This remarkable novel can be, in turn, both playful and thoughtful. The anthropomorphism in the story telling is delightful, from Buddy's hoping that a vicious Doberman will get help for her issues to the PC reference to a mutt as a "diversity dog." The author is also not above some fairly outrageous word plays. Familiar expressions based on "hand" are recast, perhaps a bit too frequently, with "paws," Mac, who like all the canine inhabitants of Haven sports an impressive set of wings, confesses that as a newbie litigator, he is sort of winging it, and later, embarrassed, states that he's sheepish. The Holy Oak representative of plant life in Buddy's truly World Court trial is thought to be turning over a new leaf.
At one point, Buddy says, "I'm liking the corn," thereby using a progressive/continuous tense for the stative verb, "like." The most prominent violator of this somewhat arcane rule of grammar is McDonald's with its slogan,"I'm loving it." As Buddy was fed by his loyal companions largely from the trash bins of McDonald's, could there be a connection? Junk food; junk grammar?
Lest you think that dogs are above such an unworthy impulse as revenge, go along with members of the group as they bring a couple of abusive humans to their knees and to justice in true David and Goliath style.
On the more serious side, the final courtroom struggle, when Buddy is put on trial before animals, humans, plants, and elements for violating the Rule of Equi, which demands strict segregation and non-fraternization between animal and human spirits, seems to be a clear allusion to contemporary struggles between isolationists and the "can't we all get along?" group. Without divulging the trial outcome, I think it safe to say that in Haven, the death penalty is probably not a viable or very threatening option.
Any owners of these dogs must have been performing their neutering duties because there's nary a mention of sex in the whole book. Fine. As one who has housed both dogs and cats, but never at the same time, I would have welcomed a bit more attention to the dog/cat relationship.
PETA and the ASPCA should promote this book to the hilt. Often charm and intelligence are better lures to sensitive conduct than scare tactics.
Buddy is indeed fortunate to have a parent as loving and literate as Ms. Russell. And so are the readers of Buddy's Tail.
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