Maudlin, embarrassing ode to a pooch.
The author and his wife still qualified as newlyweds—they’d been married just over a year—when they decided to adopt a dog. Jenny, who had recently killed a houseplant (a “lovely large dieffenbachia with emerald-and-cream variegated leaves”), thought she needed to brush up on her maternal skills before she tried to have a baby. Hence Marley, a lovable Labrador retriever. John adores the reggae tempo of Marley’s tail-wagging and enjoys playing tug-of-war with him. Within a few weeks, the Grogans felt confident about their caretaking ability and tossed their birth control in the trash. Jenny got pregnant, but miscarried; she embraced not only John but also Marley in her grief. And on it went: Marley got kicked out of obedience class. He developed a fear of thunder, which the Grogans discussed seriously with a vet. When the Grogans went on a trip, they left a six-page memo about Marley’s care with the colleague who agreed to dog-sit. (Blessedly, the author only reproduces three-and-a-half of those pages here.) Marley appeared in a movie, The Last Home Run. Jenny got pregnant again—maybe it was because Marley sometimes lolled around in bed with the Grogans during their basal-temperature-ovulation-calendar-we-must-have-sex-right-this-second drill-sessions—and ultimately carried two pregnancies to term. But it feels as if Grogan has mistaken Marley for his first baby. He’s like those people who prattle on about every single blessed thing their kids do—except in this case, it’s a dog.
Marley died at age 13, and the book ends with the Grogans thinking of adopting another puppy. Please, no sequels! Only the most alarmingly devoted dog lovers should bother with this one.