My Favorite Novel: A Dog’s Purpose is the third in a series of 5 posts where I share my favorite books in different categories, including: favorite sci-fi series, favorite novel, favorite memoir, favorite science nonfiction, and favorite self-help. A Dog’s Purpose is my favorite novel. Check out My Favorite Sci-Fi series and My Favorite Memoir.
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A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron, is one of the few books that is written entirely from the perspective of the dog that is well-written and actually gives the impression that the writer is inside the dog’s head.
You may have seen the movie. It wasn’t very good. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t. Or at least read the book first. The problem is that the way this book was written doesn’t really fit into movie format, so they had to change quite a few things. (There was also some controversy about dogs being mistreated, but I won’t go into that here, except to say that animal cruelty of any kind is unforgivable.)
In the beginning of the book, we meet a young feral puppy. He has three siblings, two brothers and a sister, and a mom who teaches the pups to fear humans. The dogs get caught and eventually wind up at the pound, where our protagonist is euthanized.
Soon, the dog is reborn. He realizes that he must have a purpose, but he doesn’t yet know what it is. He wonders why he is a dog again. This time, he has a much happier life: he goes to live with a family, who has an 8-year-old boy named Ethan. Ethan and the puppy quickly fall in love, and Ethan names him Bailey.
The next half of the book deals with Bailey’s life with Ethan. Ethan grows up, plays football, goes to college. (I’m skipping a lot of details here so as not to give away too much.) Bailey gets sick and, once again, passes from this life. As he is dying, he thinks that this is it – his purpose was to love Ethan.
But then, the dog is reborn, this time as a girl. She goes through a life as a rescue dog, where she saves a lot of lives. But this life also ends, and he is reborn as a boy puppy. This is when he finally discovers his true purpose and does what he was meant to do.
Why I Love This Book
I have always loved dogs. As soon as I could talk, I asked my parents if we could get a dog. I got my first dog when I was seven years old, and now I have Caili, my 3-year-old rescued shepherd/Labrador/husky mix, who I call my “Shepradorsky.” Any dog lover will enjoy this book!
What I really loved about this book was how well the author got inside the dog’s head. None of us really know what dogs are thinking, but his narration seems entirely plausible:
“Every time I decided I needed to squat and relieve myself, everyone in the house went crazy, scooping me up and racing out the door with me, setting me in the grass and watching me until I’d recovered from the trauma of it all enough to continue with my business, which earned me so much praise I wondered if this was my main function in the family.” (p. 71, hardcover ed.)
The author also didn’t shy away from discussing difficult topics, but doing so from the perspective of a dog gave the book a lighter tone. Parents, you may want to read this before letting your child read it – some of the events deal with things that kids might not understand.
The way the lifetimes are weaved together was also very well done. In each life, the dog learned something that s/he used in the next life or lives. Gradually the pieces come together until he discovers his purpose. And when he does, you’ll feel all the feels. You may even shed a tear or two.
Anyone who has ever loved a dog needs to read this book!
Get the paperback version here (it’s cheaper than the Kindle version):