Somewhere in this book, a much better boy-meets-dog story is struggling to get out.
When Theo’s mother gets him a puppy to insulate the 11-year-old from his abusive, alcoholic father, Shadow does what dogs always do; with typical canine loyalty, he becomes a companion and soul mate. Set in a small New England town, Theo and Shadow dabble in a linear series of events (learning to heel, explorations of mud and marshes) in time to show up for a predictable ending. Local gas station owners Ahanu Lightstone and Oota Dabun are dropped into a post–World War II white world with their Algonquin beliefs untouched by time or reality. Kirkpatrick (The Address of Happiness, 2013) and Taylor veer from stereotypical Native American mysticism to racism, learning disabilities, brutal wife-beatings, a dog who talks to a cat, and coming-of-age sexuality without finding a place to settle their cumbersome tale. Bogged down with obtuse, seemingly random language (“The profound truths reside beyond the purview of one language, one continent, one species. The divine is available to all life when spirit-eyes are used to observe the reality that breathes beyond the senses,”), none of the characters, not even the dog, will charm readers of any age. Theo and his family are white.
A wandering attempt at fiction suffocated with bizarre descriptive language that would baffle any English major. (Fiction. 12-15)