A young Labrador discovers a family and develops maturity in this debut novel, told from a dog’s point of view.
The narrator of Angel’s rollicking adventure is Puppins, a 2- to 3-year-old rescue dog who lives in Los Angeles with his human, Kristin, daughter of the Seattle veterinarian who patched him up after a near-fatal car accident. Puppins is a good-natured and caring Labrador with a disarming awareness of his own foibles, which include an overenthusiastic “inner Jack Russell” and a weakness for redheads, in this case Ruby, a gorgeous and amoral Irish setter with no patience for anything that ties her down. When Ruby invites Puppins to run away with her, he leaves the human who adores him without a backward glance until he realizes that freedom and homelessness have a lot in common. But his time on the road teaches him about love, loss, and real friendship, and he has plenty of opportunities to demonstrate his courage and wit as he tries to find his way home. Angel spins a gripping tale filled with memorable characters, such as Felicity, a nondescript little canine with a stout, affectionate heart and a damaged leg from poor breeding practices in a puppy mill, and Mariah, a wise greyhound matriarch who runs a shelter for street dogs. The plot is a page-turner, and readers will certainly cheer the triumph of the good dogs against malevolent humans and pit bulls. But the book fails somewhat in its effort to create a convincing portrait of canine society, as the dogs think and act in human terms. When Puppins ruminates on the roofline of an American Craftsman-style house, “The idea was that if a devil landed on your roof, it would slide down and fly right off, like those ski jumpers I’ve seen on TV,” the narrative supposes that canines watch TV, understand ski jumping, and study architecture, the last two rather unlikely dog interests. The author’s use of language is inconsistent as well. Dogs understand human speech perfectly but cannot respond or apparently grasp that people don’t like their possessions chewed up. Canines, cats, and even mice all speak English to one another, but parakeets converse in Spanish. Despite this imperfect imagining of an alternate animal universe, the story is charming, and the ending is a warm and satisfying plea for kindness and compassion.
An exuberant, gently suspenseful coming-of-age tale with canine protagonists.