The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Short Review of The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai

This beautifully written book won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize of 2006, and deservedly so in my opinion. However, although this is one of the best books I’ve read in years, The Inheritance of Loss is Not Safe for animal lovers. In order to discuss the animal issues further, I must spoil one of the major plot threads. So if you choose to read my continuation of this post in the first comment below, consider yourself warned.


December 23, 2007 - Posted by | Book Reviews | , , ,


  1. No, the dog doesn’t die, but the owner’s grief upon losing her is wrenching, which is why I consider this book unsafe. For dramatic purposes, Desai made the right decision, because it added power to her story. But it’s quite sad.

    The owner, known as “the judge,” has never treated any human being particularly well, but he completely adores Mutt, an Irish setter (I believe — it’s been a couple of months since I read the book). Anyone who has ever loved a pet will immediately understand what’s in the judge’s heart. And that heart breaks when Mutt is stolen from him after he refuses to intervene on behalf of an innocent man who is beaten into blindness by the local authorities.

    The behavior of the man’s family is understandable, for the judge was their last hope. So why not get a small portion of revenge and a bit of money by stealing something of value to him? Poor Mutt ends up several villages away, with some people who find her more trouble than they expected, and she’s tied to a post and kicked occasionally.

    The judge never finds out what happens to Mutt, and this is what I found horrifying as a pet owner. He doesn’t know if she’s dead or alive, if she’s injured and in need of help, if she’s been taken, or anything. He becomes increasingly desperate and fearful, threatening his servant and others around him, begging for help in finding her, and grieving, grieving, grieving.

    I remember a few years ago, a woman who lives 3 blocks from here lost her housecat when he slipped out. She spent 6 months prowling the neighborhood at all hours. And that made complete sense to me. I would do it for my cats. If I never found a lost pet, the questions would weigh on me endlessly.

    And that’s what I found so sad about this book. Yes, the judge brought it on himself. Yes, he behaved badly to many people and was a rather villainous character. It still hurt to read of his agony in losing Mutt. For the record, however, I think had Mutt ended up in a loving home where she was treated well, I would have deemed this book safe despite relating to the judge’s grief. Then he would have been a villain, plain and simple. But that’s not what Desai did. I recommend this book as a brilliant piece of literature, but if loss of a pet disturbs you, at least you are now forewarned.

    Comment by esheley | December 23, 2007 | Reply

  2. An enjoyable read The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. loved the way she wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal.

    Comment by rohit | May 25, 2011 | Reply

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