The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Wit’s End, by Karen Joy Fowler

I was wacked out on cold medicine part of the time I was reading this book, so I am going to try to be fair by calling in some additional reviews. I will say, however, that I loved two of Fowler’s previous books, The Jane Austen Book Club and Sister Noon. I didn’t feel that this book measured up — I never felt drawn in, I felt the plot was fuzzy, the protagonist (Rima) seemed weak, etc. It struck me as a good novelist’s first draft more than a finished effort. But like I said, I don’t completely trust my impressions, though I wasn’t that deeply medicated — it’s not like I’m a major NyQuil junkie.

In the story, Rima is the last surviving member of her immediate family and decides to visit her godmother, Addison Early. Addison is an extremely popular mystery novelist who builds dollhouses before starting each book. Addison was also close to Rima’s father, in a relationship that Rima doesn’t quite understand. There is also something about a cult based at a place called “Holy City.” Addison incorporates real people into her books, and there’s some analysis of how fans consider certain characters to be their own, etc., etc. So Rima tries to sort it all out while coming to grips with her losses, and quite frankly, I sort of got lost in all of this.

Anyway, here are highlights from some other reviews:

The Amazon reviews were all over the place, which isn’t normal. The positive reviews praised the Fowler’s wit and voice, the quirky characters, the Santa Cruz setting. The negative reviews noted the lack of a satisfactory conclusion (so maybe I should quit blaming the cold, since I agree), Fowler’s political views (which are the same as mine, so I thought this was a plus), the fuzziness of the plot (yes!), and a sense that the characters weren’t “real” enough (they weren’t, but that doesn’t bother me). If I were reviewing on Amazon, I would give the book 3 stars out of a possible 5.

Elsewhere, Louis Bayard, writing for Salon, actively disliked the book. The Washington Post reviewer found it “unengaging.” And the reviewer for the Baltimore City Paper loved it. I think there are enough reviewers disliking the book that I’m safe saying that I don’t recommend it.

If you are an animal lover considering reading this book, rest assured that it is SAFE. The book’s two long-haired miniature daschunds, Berkeley and Stanford, are all over the place in the story and come to no harm. Addison uses a cat as a murder weapon in one of her mysteries, but its fate is never revealed. An otter released from an aquarium attacks baby seals on page 220, but that incident is never mentioned again.


March 7, 2009 - Posted by | Book Reviews, dogs |

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