Monday, May 30, 2011

Jenn's Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs

The Dust of 100 DogsSummary:  In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.  ~ product description

Review:  From the moment I listened to A.S. King speak at Rochester Teen Book Festival, I knew I had to read her work.  I really wanted to be enthralled by this book.  Was it compelling and original?  Absolutely.  Were there things I loved about it?  Definitely.  But there were also things that disturbed me.  Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

This book is not all about swashbuckling fun and rollicking dogs -not that there isn't some of those things in there, but not to the degree one might expect from the title and description.  While this book is not quite what I expected when I initially picked it up, once I moved beyond that I was able to appreciate it for what it was.

Emery's story was amazing and heartbreaking.  I loved the time period and the research in this back story.  However, I did not love what happened to her.  Having heard Ms. King speak to teens about abuse, I'm not surprised that it figures prominently in the story -first in the form of child abuse and, later, rape.  Though not graphic, the author does not sugar coat anything and it's not easy to read in places.

There are several other story lines that also made me uncomfortable, firstly the insight into the lecherous, disturbed, psychologically imbalanced mind of the old man who's path will cross with Saffron.  Secondly is the amount of animal abuse, carried out by the afore mentioned individual.  I know that it's supposed to be uncomfortable, and it's brilliant that the author can make me squirm so much, but I don't like that feeling, and it made it hard for me to engage with the book.

I do love the concept for this book, though.  I love books that flirt with fate and karma.  The fact that Saffron is wise for her years due to Emer's memories is completely plausible for me.  I wish we could have spent a little more time with Saffron.  Especially at the denouement which seemed a little abrupt, but was cohesive with the feel of the book.  It was interesting the way the two women, a few centuries apart interacted.

Would I have liked more lighthearted stories from her dog years in between?  Yes, but the little lessons from the dog's perspective that are interspersed between chapters give a poignant social commentary on human behavior and interaction.  Although some of them are a little graphic and violent as well.

I've been pondering this book and how to review it for over a week.  If a book can make you think that long about it, it must have merit.  I'm just not sure to whom I'd recommend it.  It is a fascinating study of fate and human interaction, full of life lessons.  It's also full of hardships.  I hate to leave my review in such an ambiguous place, but after reading this, that's where I am.

So, after all that, would I read another novel by A.S. King? Yes, I would.

Final Take:  3.5/5.0

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