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Wild Dogs by Helen Humphreys
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Wild Dogs

by Helen Humphreys

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Every evening a group of people gathers at the edge of a forest, each hoping to retrieve a dog, formerly their beloved pet, now a member of a feral pack roaming the woods. We learn the back stories of each of these people, whose dogs were taken from them under varying circumstances, as they begin to develop relationships among themselves. The stories are told from multiple points of view, although most of the novel is narrated by Alice, who finds herself falling in love with another of the seekers, a wild life biologist. Other characters include a skateboarding teenager whose stepfather abandoned his dog in the forest, Lily, a brain-damaged teenage girl, and two older eccentric men.

This is a very sparse novel, and while I understood the longing of the various characters for their lost pets, I never really connected with the novel as a whole. SPOILER FOR ANIMAL LOVERS: You may want to avoid reading this because there is a very sorrowful ending for most of the dogs, who are themselves important characters in the book.

2 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 18, 2016 |
not in ILL
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 5, 2016 |
I don't think Helen Humphreys can write a book I don't love although the plot of this one had me scratching my head until she completely drew me in with her luscious prose and thought provoking narrative. The story opens with six people standing on the edge of a forest calling their dogs. They've each lost their dog because someone else in their life thought they knew what was best. The six of them have formed their own unlikely union even as their dogs prowl the forest joined in an uneasy cadre.

The first half of the book is told by Alice, using the second person narrative form and is, at first a little off-putting. In the hands of a less skilled writer it could have been disastrous but when we realize that Alice is writing this part of the book as a love letter to one of the other group members it's easier to understand Humphreys' choice in the matter. The rest of the book is told, in turn, by each of the other group members and we learn their history and the sadness that has brought them to this point.
As we've come to expect from Humphreys, she is taking the long view and using her brief novel to paint a complex picture of man's cruelty to man. These characters will not come out unscathed and, as a matter of fact, it is when a tragedy takes place that the novel gains its momentum and all that the author has set up begins to wind down. And also as we've come to expect, it is Humphrey's gift of language that makes this another stand out offering from the Canadian author. One of the characters muses:

"Memory is a barricade against forgetting; light is a bulwark against darkness; life is a flex against the stillness of the grave. Maybe that's what I'm trying to do here, clear a space in all the debris, through all the anxieties and worries, where I can just exist, easily and simply, entire, for as long as I have left." (Page 159)

It's the theme of memory and loneliness that predominate the narrative and it's the resolution of these themes that makes for another lovely addition to this author's impressive portfolio. Highly recommended. ( )
6 vote brenzi | Nov 30, 2012 |
I am a huge fan of Helen Humphreys' novels, having read and adored The Frozen Thames, Coventry, Afterimage, and The Lost Garden. No one writes more beautifully, and few writers have such poignant insights into the human spirit. Those are characteristics apparent in Wild Dogs, too, although its plot is quite a turn from what I've come to expect from Humphreys.

Each night a group of six very different people meet at the edge of the woods behind Cooper's farm. There's Alice, a sad loner who has recently left her boyfriend; Walter, an elderly man who was recently widowed; Jamie, a 15-year old who believes that his stepfather hates him; Malcolm, an eccentric 40-year old who lives with his mother; Lily, a young woman who was brain-damaged in a childhood accident; and an expert on wolves. Though very different, they all have something in common: their former pets are now part of a wild dog pack. Some ran off, some were dropped off by family members who couldn't or wouldn't keep them. And each night their owners gather in hopes of catching a glimpse of their dogs, calling to them in hopes that their calls might be answered. These six people, all emotionally damaged and, like the dogs, in hiding for reasons of their own, form a tenuous pack of sorts--a pack that, like that of the dogs, can be both supportive and destructive.

Humphreys begins with a lengthy narration of events by Alice, but in the end, each of the six characters (plus the father of one) gets the chance to summarize what happened from his or her perspective. Each of their lives has been deeply changed by their shared experience. Although Wild Dogs is harsher and darker than Humphreys's usual fare, it nevertheless shines at its heart with a small glimmer of hope and the sense that we might, if we dare to risk it, be one another's salvation. ( )
7 vote Cariola | Aug 12, 2012 |
This is my favorite kind of book, one that examines the human condition with the full development of a metaphor - the wild dogs have been lost or purposely discarded by the people who are supposed to love them. They nearly starve to death but manage to band together in a pack to protect the weakest among them and make a good life for themselves which threatens people who themselves have been abandoned by society. ( )
1 vote Citizenjoyce | Mar 14, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393328422, Paperback)

“A perspective on love and loss [that] will haunt you for days.”—Entertainment Weekly

Alice's boyfriend abandons her dog, which joins a feral pack. Every evening, Alice and five others gather at the forest's edge, trying to call their dogs back. Most have similar tales of jealousy or vengeance enacted upon them through their dogs: Jamie is rebelling against his stepfather; Lily, who has suffered brain damage, is considered irresponsible. Becoming more deeply involved, Alice moves out to a cabin on land owned by Malcolm, one of the group, whose motives in having her there are suspicious. As she falls in love with the wildlife biologist whose wolf has gained lead of the pack, she feels the tug between love's wild power and her desire to domesticate it. After a tragic accident, all members of the group must rethink their lives and find their places in an untamed world. Wild Dogs strips away the conventions of love and passion to reveal deeper, richer truths. Reading group guide included.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:08 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Every evening, Alice and five other people gather at the forest's edge, trying to call their dogs back from the feral pack they've joined. Alice's boyfriend had abandoned her dog there, in an act of anger and desperation. Most of the rest have similar tales of jealousy or vengeance enacted upon them through their dogs: Jamie is rebelling against his stepfather; Lily, who has suffered brain damage, is considered irresponsible." "Becoming more deeply involved, Alice moves out to a cabin on land owned by Malcolm, one of the group, whose motives in having her there are suspicious. As she falls in love with the wildlife biologist whose wolf has gained lead of the pack, she feels the tug between love's wild power and her desire to domesticate it. After a tragic accident, all members of the group must rethink their lives and find their places in an untamed world."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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