Fifteen Dogs (2015) – Andre Alexis

 

My Mom picked up this book for me for Xmas, and I dug into it to see what’s the what, and was delighted by the map indicating that not only does the book take place in Toronto, most of it takes place in the area of my neighborhood.

I was also surprised by who much I got into the book, I was a little dubious in the first chapter, but was moved to tears twice by the last pair of chapters. Alexis has crafted a wonderful examination of what it means to be a dog, or human, perhaps both. It is nothing short of moving, and amazing.

The gods, Apollo and Hermes, meet at the Wheat Sheaf (Hey! I’ve been there) for drinks and discussion, and a wager comes out of it, centering around the condition of humans, their intelligence, and that any being on the planet could be the same if so endowed.

A wager arises that sees fifteen dogs placed with human intelligence and awareness, with the caveat being that Hermes will win the bet (two years of servitude from his brother god), should even one of the dogs, with all of their knowledge, their new language, and new way of seeing life, meet a happy death when their time comes.

Three dogs play the largest part in the tale, and we spend time with each of them, getting to know their behavior, their thoughts, their conversation and even their art. We meet Prince, Benjy and Majnoun.

There are revelations and discoveries, heartbreak and tears, pain and confusion, all of it interwoven by Alexis deft hand to present an experience that is both new and familiar, as we look at ourselves, our society, our knowledge, through and with the eyes of canines.

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The further I got into the book, the more I enjoyed it, and there are some wonderful sequences featuring Majnoun and his human mistress, Nira. In fact, a large portion of them are my favorite parts of the book, well that and the ending.

I wasn’t sure I what I was expecting from the cover, and the write-up on it, but it definitely did not convey, to me at least, the type of journey I was about to embark on with these animals.  Alexis puts us in the minds of these animals, and it’s hard to not believe that this is exactly how they think and why they do the things they do.

This group of dogs serves as a microcosm for our own society, our beliefs, our creations, and they way we treat each other because of differences. It doesn’t preach, the book never does that, but you’re aware that this collection of dogs is a mirror in a lot of ways for our own society.

And are they better or worse for having been given this gift, that’s for the reader to judge, and discuss.

A truly beautiful book.

Thanks Mom!

fifteenandre

 

 

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