MY LIFE AS A DOG by Reidar Jonsson
Kirkus Star

MY LIFE AS A DOG

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A distinctive, whimsical novel--originally published in 1983 in Sweden--about a boy who lives with an aunt and uncle (and in several foster homes) while his mother slowly dies of tuberculosis and his father travels the world as a seaman. The boy's voice is original and convincing as he turns his portrayal of small-town life into myth. Young Ingemar Johansson (the success of the heavyweight fighter with the same name becomes a presence and summarizing image here) begins his lyrical folklorish account by telling of his ""marriage"" to ""Little Frog"" and of the ""angels"" who visit to tell him of his mother's forthcoming death. He has an older brother, but they are mostly separated, especially when Ingemar is ""deported"" to Smaland, where his uncle lives: ""I run around in circles like a sweaty circus horse ruled by the rein and the whip."" Ingemar then takes up with tomboy Saga, whose budding breasts are ""a catastrophe,"" particularly when innocent sexual experimentation becomes her ""strange new hobby."" In the meantime, the onset of puberty is dovetailed with Ingemar's entry into the adult world: he works at a local glass factory, consorts with a variety of locals, lives through football madness, comes to understand that his mother ""had stopped listening to me ages ago,"" and also that ""People always lie."" Saga, who ""flew past the traps everyone set for her,"" knocks him out a couple of times, and he finally decides (the culmination of a booklong identification with dogs) ""not to be human"": ""If I grow old I'm going to spend all my time at a big bus stop where lots of buses keep coming and going all the time."" A recent popular film version should provide a large readership for this marvelous, cleareyed book--Jonsson's first US publication. It delicately renders a troubled boy's pubescent chronicles in a voice as distinctive as Holden Caulfield's.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0374523797
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux