Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book Review: Church of the Dog

Some books bring tears to your eyes when you finish them. Some bring tears because you finish them. The rare books bring tears for both reasons. Church of the Dog by Kaya McLaren is one of the rare books.

Told from multiple perspectives, this is a story of wonder and mystery, wonder over the events of life, mystery because events have a way of producing unintended consequences. Deep in Oregon ranch country lies a spread owned by Earl and Edith. Cattle and sadness are the two main "crops." Earl and Edith face another sad anniversary when a young art teacher Mara shows up and asks if she can rent one of their outbuildings. They agree, and vegetarian Mara moves in with a pig she's rescued from a local fair. Mara agrees to help around the ranch in return for a place to live and a pen for her pig.

Earl and Edith become friendly with this free spirit who creates art from metal junk, who paints a stained glass window on the side of the outbuilding and who dances in the moonlight. When Earl and Edith's grandson, also broken in spirit, comes for a visit, Mara realizes she needs to heal him too.

This literary novel reads with a fluency of language unusual in a debut writer. It's beautiful, lyrical and painfully true.

What is interesting about this novel is the use of multiple perspectives to tell the story. McLaren breaks many of the "rules" of writing with these multiple narrators. Without them, the book would have been all right, but it wouldn't have been great. One hopes her second novel is as good or better than her first.

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