Award-winning musician/composer Lazar’s debut novel presents the tale of Nelson, half-beagle, half-poodle, and thoroughly lost.
Nelson is a mistake. An amorous beagle exploits a fence hole, and a sweet woman who breeds beagles and poodles ends up with mutts to sell. Nelson is sent to a Boston pet shop, where he attracts the attention of Katey and Don Entwhistle on their way home after honeymooning in Italy. Katey is enthralled with Nelson’s personality and odd coloring around his eyes. She takes him home to New York. Life is good. Nelson is treasured and pampered, but Katey’s travels as a concert pianist and Don’s loss of his professorship trouble their marriage. There’s an affair. There are arguments. One day stressed-out Don forgets to latch the backyard gate, and Nelson follows his nose into a life of adventure. The book becomes a long tale of lost-and-found, unfolding from Nelson’s perspective. Lazar focuses on all things dog, particularly the smells, a dog’s window to the world. As Nelson wanders, truck driver Thatcher Stevens uses a hamburger to lure him away from scavenging at a landfill. Later Stevens is injured and hospitalized. Nelson panics and escapes his truck cab. He meets another stray, Lucy. There are coyotes and wolves, and an old man to save, a leg amputation and escapes from shelters and euthanization. Nelson ends up in California, forever remembering his “Great Love,” Katey. Lazar’s straightforward language suits the canine narrative, and he writes agreeably enough from a dog’s point of view. The author’s interpretation of wolfpack dynamics is also interesting. But Lazar may have moved the book off the young adult shelf by allowing Nelson to observe more than one steamy scene— “clumsy love…the whole cab would shake back and forth…dislodged again by sweaty human bodies on top of him.”
Not a Disney-esque Homeward Bound homage, but rather something of a canine version of Black Beauty.