Review: Marley and Me- John Grogan

A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his.

Twenty three weeks at number one on the bestsellers list, five million copies sold and made into a hugely successful motion picture starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston; Marley & Me is a book beloved by millions of people around the world and for good reason.

John and Jenny Grogan are reporters living in West Palm Beach, Florida, and are used to a quiet life. That was before they bought untameable Labrador puppy Marley, repeatedly and justifiably termed by Grogan as The World’s Worst Dog. An autobiographical novel, Grogan draws on his and his family’s experiences with the 1000 pound, home-wrecking, fun-loving ‘loopy Labrador’ and his antics; with a light touch, he relates some laugh out loud, hilarious stories that captivate the reader’s attention from the beginning, and keeps the novel powerfully charged with humour throughout. Marley is the dog every dog owner prays they don’t wind up with; although loveable, he is wondrously neurotic and just outright crazy, even succeeding in being kicked out of obedience class. From the start Grogan makes it clear that this is no ordinary dog, and the reader is in for one hell of a read.

‘His body would quiver, his head would bob from side to side, and his entire rear end would swing in a sort of spastic dance. We called it the Marley Mambo.’

However do not be fooled into thinking that the story boringly relates the adventures of a badly behaved mutt. The novel is so much more than that. Grogan gives the reader a universal picture of family life; whatever the situation is, whether it’s moving house or planning to have children, Marley is there for it all. The reader is taken on a journey with the whole Grogan family, and as we chart Marley’s development from young puppy to old arthritic dog, we too follow the intrepid progress of a young couple in love to successful home-owners and parents of three children.

Although I personally loved the book, I recognise that it may not hold the same importance and entertainment for those who have not owned a dog. I strongly suggest that if that is the case, then this novel is not for you! However for anyone who has or had ever owned a dog Marley & Me is a must-read. As a dog owner myself I identified with Grogan and the novel recalled countless memories which is why the book is so effortlessly touching a read for dog owners. Marley & Me is both beautifully touching and deeply moving; Grogan perfectly balances and alternates between humour, sadness and grief making the novel an extremely emotional read with a huge impact once it ends. It’s a fast paced read chronicled in humorous and honest narration, and Grogan’s unique writing style gives you a sense of the deeply personal, which only a person who has ever loved a dog can fully appreciate. One quote that is particularly touching is:

‘A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty’.’

The novel is certainly not high-class literature and the story itself is related in a personal but simplistic way. What you see is what you get, and what we get is an endearing story about owning a dog. The novel is also definitely cliché about owner and dog and how special man’s best friend is; it isn’t exactly new material, so if you are looking for a unique story then look for something else. However I think this deliciously cliché story is all part of its appeal for dog owners. The author has done a fantastic job in managing to capture the joy that a dog can bring to family and to life, as well as the emptiness when they are gone. Engaging the reader’s heart from start to finish, it is an unforgettable heart-warming story, and undoubtedly one of the best books I have read this year.

Rating: 4/5

Do I reccomend you to read it? A definite yes for animal lovers or dog owners.

Genre: autobiographical novel/ memoir