- Want it by Thursday, October 18? Order by 12:00 PM Eastern and choose Expedited Shipping at checkout.
A national bestseller combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, “Lily and the Octopus is the dog book you must read this summer” (The Washington Post).
Ted—a gay, single, struggling writer is stuck: unable to open himself up to intimacy except through the steadfast companionship of Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily’s health is compromised, Ted vows to save her by any means necessary. By turns hilarious and poignant, an adventure with spins into magic realism and beautifully evoked truths of loss and longing, Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Introducing a dazzling and completely original new voice in fiction and an unforgettable hound that will break your heart—and put it back together again. Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one. “Startlingly imaginative...this love story is sure to assert its place in the canine lit pack...Be prepared for outright laughs and searing or silly moments of canine and human recognition. And grab a tissue: “THERE! WILL! BE! EYE! RAIN!” (New York Newsday).
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Lily and the Octopus
It’s Thursday the first time I see it. I know that it’s Thursday because Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute. She’s twelve in actual years, which is eighty-four in dog years. I’m forty-two, which is two hundred and ninety-four in dog years—but like a really young two hundred and ninety-four, because I’m in pretty good shape and a lot of people tell me I could pass for two hundred and thirty-eight, which is actually thirty-four. I say this about our ages because we’re both a little immature and tend to like younger guys. We get into long debates over the Ryans. I’m a Gosling man, whereas she’s a Reynolds gal, even though she can’t name a single movie of his that she would ever watch twice. (We dropped Phillipe years ago over a disagreement as to how to pronounce his name. FILL-a-pea? Fill-AH-pay? Also because he doesn’t work that much anymore.) Then there’s the Matts and the Toms. We go back and forth between Bomer and Damon and Brady and Hardy depending on what kind of week it has been. And finally the Bradleys, Cooper and Milton, the latter of whom is technically way older and long dead and I’m not sure why my dog keeps bringing him up other than she loves board games, which we usually play on Fridays.
Anyhow, this particular Thursday we are discussing the Chrises: Hemsworth and Evans and Pine. It’s when Lily suggests offhandedly we also include Chris Pratt that I notice the octopus. It’s not often you see an octopus up close, let alone in your living room, let alone perched on your dog’s head like a birthday party hat, so I’m immediately taken aback. I have a good view of it, as Lily and I are sitting on opposite sides of the couch, each with a pillow, me sitting Indian style, her perched more like the MGM lion.
“We don’t have to include Chris Pratt, it was just a suggestion,” she says.
“No—what’s that on your head?” I ask. Two of the octopus’s arms hang down her face like chin straps.
“What do you mean, where? There. Over your temple on the right side.”
Lily pauses. She looks at me for a moment, our eyes locked on each other. She breaks my gaze only to glance upward at the octopus. “Oh. That.”
I immediately lean in and grab her snout, the way I used to when she was a pup and would bark too much, so excited by the very existence of each new thing encountered that she had to sing her enthusiasm with sharp, staccato notes: LOOK! AT! THIS! IT! IS! THE! MOST! AMAZING! THING! I’VE! EVER! SEEN! IT’S! A! GREAT! TIME! TO! BE! ALIVE! Once, when we first lived together, in the time it took me to shower she managed to relocate all of my size-thirteen shoes to the top of the staircase three rooms away. When I asked her why, her reply was pure conviction: THESE! THINGS! YOU! PUT! ON! FEET! SHOULD! BE! CLOSER! TO! THE! STAIRS! So full of ebullience and ideas.
I pull her closer to me and turn her head to the side so I can get a good, long look. She gives me the most side-eye she can muster in annoyance, disgusted with both the molestation and unwanted attention, and my gaucheness as a big, stupid human man.
The octopus has a good grip and clings tightly over her eye. It takes me a minute, but I gather my nerve and poke it. It’s harder than I would have imagined. Less like a water balloon, more like . . . bone. It feels subcutaneous, yet there it is, out in the open for all to see. I count its arms, turning Lily’s head around to the back, and sure enough, there are eight. The octopus looks angry as much as out of place. Aggressive perhaps is a better word. Like it is announcing itself and would like the room. I’m not going to lie. It’s as frightening as it is confounding. I saw a video somewhere, sometime, of an octopus that camouflaged itself so perfectly along the ocean floor that it was completely undetectable until some unfortunate whelk or crab or snail came along and it emerged, striking with deadly precision. I remember going back and watching the video again and again, trying to locate the octopus in hiding. After countless viewings I could acknowledge its presence, sense its energy, its lurking, its intent to pounce, even if I couldn’t entirely make it out in form. Once you had seen it, you couldn’t really unsee it—even as you remained impressed with its ability to hide so perfectly in plain sight.
This is like that.
Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it, and the octopus transforms Lily’s entire face. A face that has always been so handsome to me, a noble and classic dog profile, betrayed only slightly by a dachshund’s ridiculous body. Still, that face! Perfect in its symmetry. When you pulled her ears back it was like a small bowling pin covered in the softest mahogany fur. But now she looks less like a bowling pin in shape and more like a worn-down bowling pin in occupation; her head sports a lump as if it had actually been the number-one pin in a ten-pin formation.
Lily snorts at me twice with flared nostrils and I realize I’m still holding her snout. I let go of her, knowing she is seething at the indignity of it all.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she says, tucking her head to gnaw at an itch on her stomach.
“Well, I do want to talk about it.”
Mostly I want to talk about how it could be possible that I’ve never seen it before. How I could be responsible for every aspect of her daily life and well-being—food, water, exercise, toys, chews, inside, outside, medication, elimination, entertainment, snuggling, affection, love—and not notice that one side of her head sports an octopus, alarmingly increasing it in size. The octopus is a master of disguise, I remind myself; its intent is to stay hidden. But even as I say this silently in my head I wonder why I’m letting myself so easily off the hook.
“Does it hurt?”
There’s a sigh. An exhale. When Lily was younger, in her sleep she would make a similar noise, usually right before her legs would start racing, the preamble to a beautiful dream about chasing squirrels or birds or pounding the warm sand on an endless golden beach. I don’t know why, but I think of Ethan Hawke answering the standard questionnaire inspired by Bernard Pivot that ended every episode of Inside the Actors Studio:
“What sound or noise do you love?”
Puppies sighing, Ethan had said.
Yes! Such a wonderful juxtaposition, sighing puppies. As if warm, sleeping puppies felt anything lamentable or had weariness or exasperations to sigh over. And yet they sighed all the time! Exhalations of sweet, innocent breath. But this sigh is different. Subtly. To the untrained ear it might not be noticeable, but I know Lily about as well as I think it’s possible to know another living thing, so I notice it. There’s a heaviness to it. A creakiness. There are cares in her world; there is weight on her shoulders.
I ask her again. “Does it hurt?”
Her answer comes slowly, after great pause and consideration. “Sometimes.”
The very best thing about dogs is how they just know when you need them most, and they’ll drop everything that they’re doing to sit with you awhile. I don’t need to press Lily further. I can do what she has done for me countless times, through heartbreak and illness and depression and days of general uneasiness and malaise. I can sit with her quietly, our bodies touching just enough to generate warmth, to share the vibrating energy of all living things, until our breathing slows and falls into the parallel rhythm it always does when we have our quietest sits.
I pinch the skin on the back of her neck as I imagine her mother once did to carry her when she was a pup.
“There’s a wind coming,” I tell her. Staring down the octopus as much as I dare, I fear there’s more truth to that statement than I’d like. Mostly I am setting Lily up to deliver her favorite line from Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Neither of us has actually seen the film, but they played this exchange endlessly in the commercials back when it was in theaters and we both would collapse in fits of laughter at the sound of Cate Blanchett bellowing and carrying on as the Virgin Queen. My dog does the best Cate Blanchett impression.
Lily perks up just a bit and delivers her response on cue: “I, too, can command the wind, sir! I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare if you dare to try me! Let them come with the armies of hell; they will not pass!”
It’s a good effort, one she makes for me. But if I’m being honest, it isn’t her best. Instinctually she probably already knows what is fast becoming clear to me: she is the whelk; she is the crab; she is the snail.
The octopus is hungry.
And it is going to have her.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Lily and the Octopus includes discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Steven Rowley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Ted agonizes over the fact that Lily’s octopus has gone unnoticed by both of them for so long. Discuss how he internalizes his grief, transforming it into guilt. How would you react in his shoes?
2. The book is divided into eight sections, each with an octopus-related theme. What other octopus imagery and symbolism did you find in the book?
3. Ted hates “living in the not knowing” (p. 31). How does this aversion to uncertainty affect his personal relationships? Do you think this attitude changes over the course of the novel?
4. There is a level of trust shared between Ted and Lily that does not seem to extend to the humans in his life. Discuss how trust requires a kind of courage that humans find difficult to muster. Is it possible to replicate the unconditional love of a dog? Why or why not?
5. Ted notes that Lily has been the closest witness to his life. Discuss why this is clarifying for him. How can new perspectives become powerful?
6. Throughout the novel, we learn that omens can be just as bad as they are good. What happens when Ted goes looking for more omens? Where do they lead him?
7. What role does forgiveness play in this novel? Who does Ted ultimately make peace with, and at what point?
8. Lily admits that she has not held onto a single bad memory. In fact, she does not have many memories at all. Still, she adores Ted’s stories. Discuss how memories can become their own forms of storytelling. What does Ted learn from distilling their shared history?
9. The vet has warned Ted that as she gets older, Lily may start to encounter Enclosed World Syndrome. How is this syndrome mirrored in Ted’s own life? Do you recognize the phenomenon?
10. Ted catches a glimpse of himself in the glass door by the pool and recognizes the octopus. Discuss the meaning of this scene. Why do you think this conflation of identity occurs in his mind’s eye?
11. The tattoo artist, Kal, claims to enjoy the permanence of his work. Ted is skeptical that permanence even exists. Did you see anything in the novel that you felt to be permanent? If so, what was it?
12. One idea that Ted is partial to is karma. Karma implies a sense of causality and order to the universe. Do you think that his opinion evolves as Lily gets sicker?
13. Discuss the scene in which Ted finally acknowledges that the octopus is, in fact, a tumor. What has changed? Did he kill the octopus? What is the significance of this semantic twist?
14. Lily loves her red ball. Ted even goes so far as to suggest that hers is not a life without it. Discuss the symbolism of the ball, especially in Ted’s dream when he loses Lily in a storm of them.
15. What does Ted see in Byron? Do you see a happy future for the two of them?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Ted takes solace in the J. M. Barrie quote “To die would be an awfully big adventure,” and the book calls upon Rudyard Kipling for its two epigraphs. Did you read Peter Pan or The Jungle Book? Discuss your memorable childhood reading experiences and whether you would go so far as to tattoo a favorite line on your body.
2. W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a beautiful poem of all-encompassing grief. Pull up a copy and read it aloud together. Compare and contrast the lines that resonate with each of you, sharing any memories that they evoke along the way.
3. In honor of Lily and Ted’s last great adventure, take a group trip to the local aquarium or science center to consider the octopus or any of its underwater friends in their natural habitat. (Take care to remember that they are not all evil!)
4. Everyone needs a good pep talk once in a while. Treat yourselves to an episode of Friday Night Lights and soak in Coach Taylor’s inspiring words.
A Conversation with Steven Rowley
Lily and the Octopus came about when you began jotting down memories of your own dear dachshund. Was this writing experience cathartic for you? Did it surprise you in any way?
It was indeed cathartic. Six months after my dog died of cancer, I wrote what became the first chapter of Lily and the Octopus as a short story to help process my grief. I didn’t expect it to go anywhere; I was just doing what writers often do—putting feelings down on paper to get them out of my heart and my head. I shared the story with my boyfriend, who encouraged me to keep writing. Still, I felt the story was so deeply personal (and disconcertingly weird) that I wasn’t sure it would connect with anyone who didn’t know me or didn’t know my dog. What has been surprising (and deeply humbling) is the way the book has resonated with so many readers—dog lovers and non-dog lovers alike. I tried to write Lily’s story with unflinching emotional honesty, and the connection that people seem to feel, despite the magical realism, is a testament to the power of the truth.
You have also worked as a screenwriter. What do you think are the main differences between the two mediums? Do you have a preference?
When I decided to write Lily and the Octopus as a novel, I removed my screenwriter’s cap and threw myself into the medium entirely, and it was incredibly freeing. Not once did I have to think about something being too expensive to build, too hard to cast, or too impossible to film. My only limits were those imposed by my own imagination. Talking dog as a main character? Sure. Octopus stuck to dog’s head? Why not! Expansive battle at sea? Yes, please. I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue, which lends itself to screenwriting. In the course of writing this book, I became really taken with crafting prose and the pace and depth at which you can really explore what’s going on inside a character’s head. Screenwriters have to externalize the internal, show what’s going on through action and dialogue, and that can be difficult.
As a screenwriter, you’re part of a team—one of many people who bring a story to life. Novelist is a much more solitary occupation. Collaboration can be fruitful, but it is often not the writer’s vision that makes it to the screen. Likewise, a novel doesn’t make it to the shelves without a real team of people who believe in the story, but for me it has been so rewarding to create something that itself was the final work and have my vision honored.
If Lily and the Octopus were adapted for film, who would be your ideal cast?
There are particular actors I imagine in the role of Ted, actors who have an inherent sadness to them and can convey a lot by doing very little. A certain stillness is important. Ewan McGregor and Jake Gyllenhaal are two actors who I think are wildly underappreciated. Paul Rudd, I think, has untapped dramatic range. Jude Law. I keep naming incredibly handsome actors. Hmm. The voice of the octopus as I was writing was always Eddie Izzard’s—and I mean that as the highest compliment. I am a huge fan and cannot imagine a more polished, brilliant, or formidable foe. I don’t picture a film version where Lily actually speaks, as so many of her conversations with Ted are imagined. But I can’t imagine a happier process than sitting with a casting director in a room full of dachshunds of all ages.
The narrative puts a lot of weight on naming and nicknames. Lily has an abundance of them, while Ted is mainly relegated to “that guy.” There is also a poignant moment in which Ted and Jeffrey become only that to each other. Discuss the power of naming as it plays out in both the novel and real life.
One of my favorite moments in the book comes when Trent calls Ted Theodore, even though his full name is Edward. I think that one shorthand sums up their relationship perfectly and tells you everything you need to know about their friendship. Naming characters is hard for me, because I do indeed believe that names carry a lot of weight. Sometimes a name has the proper rhythm or length and it simply sounds right. I have three siblings whereas Ted has only one, so the three-syllable name given to Ted’s sister, Meredith, allowed me to honor them. Lily in real life stemmed from Little Weiner Dog, and Lily became its own term of endearment. I do think it feels formal and stilted when people who are very close call each other by name, particularly those in romantic relationships. Ted was the last to be named. For the longest time he was simply “The Narrator,” but people too often conflated him with me. I wanted him to have his own identity, and there is a huggable quality about the teddy bear that I hoped the reader would also feel for Ted. The last name I ripped straight from Melville. Flask was the third mate aboard the Pequod in Moby-Dick and was a man who seemed to regard the whale’s very existence as a personal affront.
Ted considers Lily to be his best friend, but he also has a very strong human support system—Trent, Meredith, his mother. Where did you get the inspiration for these characters? Do you think that Ted appreciates them in the same way that he appreciates Lily?
I wanted Ted to be as isolated from people as possible in order to enhance and spotlight the special relationship he has with Lily; he has one parent, one sibling, one friend. They are an excellent support system in that they will always be there for him, even if at times his first instinct is to keep them at arm’s length or to push them away. And I do think he appreciates the people in his life, but not in the same way as he does Lily—simply because she is there. Dogs don’t let you keep them at a distance. They will doggedly push their way into your life, like it or not. It’s also hard to craft a separate persona to present to a dog, the way humans often present somewhat different or edited personas to the various people in their lives. Dogs generally see the whole you and love unconditionally. I think there’s a part of Ted that thinks the love he has from people is somehow conditional, and that prevents him from fully letting go.
The book takes place in Ted’s early forties, a stereotypical time for midlife crises. Indeed, Ted muses that “this is the halftime of my life, and my team is losing.” Tell us how you would approach a “halftime” in your own life. What helps you get perspective after a fumble or two?
I thought it was important for Ted to be well-worn, a little weathered with a heartbreak or two under his belt, but too young to be pinned against the ropes or to tap out and not fight again. To me, that’s your early forties. Or maybe it’s as simple as I was in my early forties when I wrote the first draft of the book. In either case, turning forty is a bellwether moment for many people. My forties have been the first time I have fully felt like the person I was meant to be. It’s with that confidence and sense of self that I pick myself up after fumbles now. It’s so much easier to get back up and stand tall when you really know who you are.
The ocean—both the LA coast and the open sea—figures heavily throughout the novel. It is almost a character in its own right. Do you have a personal connection to the water? And—as a Maine native and California transplant—do you prefer the Atlantic or the Pacific?
The ocean has played a huge role in my life. I grew up in Portland, Maine, and have lived most of my adult life in Los Angeles. I’ve never lived far from the ocean, and I think I would panic if I had to. The word landlocked sends shivers down my spine. I’ve contemplated my life’s big decisions—moving across the country, coming out, ending relationships—while sitting on a beach or looking over a cliff staring at the sea. That said, I think everyone who loves the ocean also has a healthy fear of the ocean, or at least a respect for its sheer size, deep mysteries, intelligent life, and awesome power. The octopus is an octopus in part because I wanted the novel’s antagonist to come from the ocean. To be both of this world and not.
For everything but swimming—for its seafood, for its rocky shoreline, for its moody vistas—I prefer the Atlantic Ocean. There’s nothing like your first love.
You are clearly an avid Kipling fan. Who are your favorite literary beasts in (and out of) the canon? What do you think made them so memorable?
I love Kipling’s The Jungle Book, although I forget when I was introduced to his work. It may have been as a Cub Scout. I know that growing up I had a short story version of “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.” The Kipling quotes from “The Law of the Jungle” that serve as the book’s two epigraphs were quotes that I jotted down early in the writing process and referred back to throughout. I love thinking of Ted and Lily as a pack, and there’s something comforting about laws, even violent ones, providing structure in the vast jungle that is life; laws that are defined and understood from the outset. Death is a part of life. The earlier one understands this, the more fully one can live. Opening the book with a quote from The Jungle Book helps underscore the fable elements of Lily and the Octopus. I also am a huge fan of blurring lines between prose and poetry, building a rhythm and cadence through word choice, sentence length, repetition, and other literary devices that Kipling excels at.
Other writers who have inspired me include John Steinbeck, Michael Chabon, Donna Tartt, Jonathan Franzen, Richard Russo, Joan Didion, and Francesca Lia Block, whose book Weetzie Bat (another prose poem) was handed to me at a critical moment in my life.
Other than the uncanny physical similarities, why choose an octopus? What kind of research did you do on the species, and what is your favorite piece of trivia?
I chose an octopus because they are smart, wily, and slimy. They can learn, adapt, and even (according to numerous scientists) play. I needed a foe that would needle Ted, toy with him, study his weaknesses, and adjust, just as cancer mutates in the body. It helped the story that they are in many ways the physical opposite of dogs, especially dachshunds. A hairless invertebrate that lives in the sea is nothing like a furry dog that is all spine and lives on the land. I did an incredible amount of research on octopuses, and gave each of the book’s eight sections an octopus theme. There are so many fascinating facts about them it’s hard to pick a favorite; in writing the book it was hard to shake their having three hearts. Once I learned that piece of trivia, I knew the entire book would be driving toward that end.
While the octopus as villain fit the needs of this story, I want to be clear that they are magnificent creatures and are in no way inherently evil. I am quite in awe of them, really!
Do you think Ted and Byron will adopt another dog? Will it be a dachshund?
I do think that Ted and Byron will adopt a dog, but I don’t think it will be a dachshund. I think Lily is irreplaceable to Ted, and just as Byron is very different from Jeffrey, a new dog will be different from Lily. No judgment here toward others who feel differently, but limiting oneself to one breed always struck me as odd. As does the idea of there being another dachshund named Lily 2. I imagine that Ted and Jeffrey would adopt a dog from an area shelter—just as I would encourage readers of Lily and the Octopus in the market for a dog to do.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For all of us who have ever loved and lost a beloved dog, this beautifully poignant novel tugs at the heartstrings. Eye rain aplenty. Love you Lily.
Beautifully written, and humorous at times. Anyone who has loved and lost a dog will appreciate. I found reading it cathartic as well since I lost two girl dachshunds in the last year. Bravo Steven Rowley!
Never have I read a book that made me both laugh and cry so honestly. I received this as an ARC and now I feel as though I've been let in on a secret - a really, really good secret - that I know about this profound, heartrending and stunningly touching story before (almost) anyone else does! Bravo! Bravo, Mr. Rowley, for perfectly capturing the kaleidoscope of emotions that accompany loving a dog. This book should knock everything else out of the water this summer!
This book was magical and cathartic.
I bought the hard copy of this book thinking it would be wonderful and I would want to share it with my friends. Was a little bizarre for my liking. Although I cried like a baby at the end of the book, I found it hard to get through it.
This book is truely a great read. I had a hard time putting it down. I can say this was the first book to make me cry reading it. Which made it hard to wipe the tears and turn the flipping page! I 100% recommend this book to anyone.
This is not my usual type of book, but I am so glad that I bought it. I really enjoyed reading this. We all suffer loss, and the main character handled this in his own unique way. Very happy with the ending too. Definitely recommend this book.
To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to like this book but after a few pages in I fell in love. If you believe pets are family then get ready to be swept away. You'll laugh, you'll cry...big, fat tears and when you reach the end you'll wish for more. This book will stay with you long after it ends and you will probably be looking for its' sequel every time you look for something new to read .
absolutely loved Lily and The Octopus. I found it almost impossible to put down and when I was forced to do so, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Steven Rowley has created a beautifully touching and poignant story. Our narrator, Ted Flask, is a man struggling with the loneliness and heartbreak of everyday existence. It made me think a lot about the things, big and small, significant and trivial, that happen to us all and how they ultimately make you who you are. A useless therapist. An ex-boyfriend. A challenging relationship with a distant mother. These are just some of Ted's stories. Ted's best friend and companion is Lily, a 12 year old Dachshund. They share an amazing bond and I was so captivated by their relationship. In this sometimes fantastical tale, she speaks to Ted and I loved getting to hear her voice. We learn that there is something very wrong with Lily and Ted is forced to confront the possibility of life without his treasured dog. This book is so beautifully written. It is funny and thoughtful and heartbreaking. I cried real tears. I found myself rereading entire chapters after I was done, just so I could go back and relive this wonderful story. I highly recommend this book. It's a definite must read!
Mr. Rowley’s book is an unflinchingly honest look at love, loss, and the lengths to which we will go in order to protect ourselves and those we love from the suffering that both can bring. His writing instantly befriends you; as his confidante you will recognize yourself in his behavior, commiserate with his predicament, and very likely cry before you are finished, but it will be an honest cry, not a manipulated one. In a field full of sappy dog tales, I am grateful for his courageous, unpretentious, and treacle-free storytelling. I look forward to more from this impressive new author (and maybe also to make him my new best friend).
I loved this book! A mixture of sadness, humor, and quirky fantasy, I couldn't put it down!
“A heart is judged not by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” Genre: Animal Fiction. Number of Pages: 307. Perspective: First. Location: Los Angeles, California. This book is about a man's beloved dachshund with a cancerous tumor on his head. The owner, Ted, personifies this tumor as an octopus who is killing his best friend. He will do whatever it takes to fight off the octopus. At first, my thoughts were: wow, this is a strange book…this guy must be on drugs since he is hallucinating. Then I thought: this book is really sweet and I can understand the deep connection between a person and a dog. Near the end of the book I thought: ok, this guy lost me again…this book got super weird and way over the top. My final thoughts: this book was based on the author’s relationship with his own dog, so I can see how this is cathartic and part of his healing process. It honestly took me awhile to piece together my feelings about this book. I would say that I really enjoyed about 70% of it. The climax of the novel, which should have been the most interesting, completely lost me. It went way too far with the central metaphor and personification going on the book. I honestly started skimming the rest of the book after that. To read the rest of my review, go to: http://judgingmorethanjustthecover.blogspot.com/2017/10/lily-and-octopus-steven-rowley.html
I loved the voice given to Lily. Very unique. If you have ever loved and lost a pet, you will need a box of tissues throughout this book. Very well written. I liked that it had humor in it as well. I was a little confused during the sea excursion part, but the confusion cleared up towards the end and I really liked the way the book and story ended.
Why is it that every dog book that I read leaves me in tears? I am a huge dog lover so I am always drawn to this kind of book even though I know that I will be a mess before it is over. But the journey is usually worth it in the end and this book was no exception. So many things in this book reminded me of my own special dogs and I really enjoyed getting to know Lily and Ted. My sweet Hershey Lily is a dachshund and more importantly, Ted's best friend. They have been through so many things together during their 12 years together. They have a routine and enjoy their time together. This story takes you through so many of their milestones with each other including Lily's adoption, Ted's relationships, and health issues. I loved Lily and Ted's conversations with each other and could totally relate to them since I often converse with my own dog pack. I spent most of this book being reminded of all of the dogs that I have been lucky enough to have in my life. I grew up with my Tiger dog who turned out to be a wonderful dog that I still love immensely even though she has been gone for over 20 years. As an adult, Hershey blessed my life. I was able to have her for a best friend for 13 ½ amazing years. She was a very intelligent Golden Retriever Rottweiler mix and the perfect member of our family. She died in September 2015 and we still miss her so very much. We currently have 3 dogs in our family. Our Cookie is a Chow mix that is still going strong at 12 years of age. We added two puppies to the mix in late 2015 and our Stella and Molly are still keeping me on my toes. Michael Urie was a fantastic narrator for this story. He did such a great job with both Ted and Lily's voices. I have to say that they way he delivered Lily's lines were exactly how I would imagine my dogs would talk...you know, if they could talk. This was an emotional story and he really captured all of that emotion. I honestly don't know how he managed to deliver parts of this book without breaking down because I had tears streaming down my face just from listening to it. There were some parts that I didn't care for as much. Some of the parts involving the octopus just seemed to pull me out of the story. I was always able to jump back in when the book switched gears but it would lose me a bit during those scenes. That is really my only complaint regarding the book and it is really just that the book chose to go in a direction that I wouldn't have went. I would highly recommend this book to others. I do think that the audio is a fantastic way to experience this story and do recommend it. I did make the mistake of listening to this book at work. I quickly figured out that I had to stop and finish it at home or I would have been a blubbering mess at the office. So choose your listening or reading place well...and bring tissues. I would definitely read more from Steven Rowley in the future.
Last week I saw a meme about how weird characters are the ones we fall in love with in books. That is true with Lily and Ted. Lily becomes Ted's true love and I think dog and cat lovers will say there's always one animal that really stands out. This is by no means an easy book to read. If you've recently lost a beloved pet this should not be on the top of your TBR pile. I won an ARC last year and I lost my little Cocoa in February and family members when I began talking about this book thought I shouldn't read it. I did. It was difficult, and it was therapeutic. Knowing I wasn't the only one who questioned my decision, beat myself up over the times I became angry with her, and felt that the only way to cope with her lost was with sleep. To know that someone else experienced this was a rare moment that we should have far more often. And after reading this you will understand why I'm saying, "This book broke my heart, now you read it!" And make sure you have a fresh box of tissue next to you as you read this
Thank you for this wonderful book and the memories that it brings back. Now let me tell you about one of my favorite dogs: That's the nickname of a dog that I sit with when her parents go on trips that she can't go on. Lily is a miniature long-haired dachshund and she has the loudest bark in the world. She is fierce until you want to pet her and then runs for the hills.
Thank you Mr Rowley for writing such a clear and moving description of Lily and the love between you two ........... I have had the struggle and challenge experience of death with companion pets. I knew what to expect from your book so there were no surprises of what the turmoil associated with death would be. And I feel one of the most poignant parts of the book was the very ending when Lily says ..... the start of the story of ME (Lily)..... for in my opinion the story never ends because death can not keep a loved one from you. .............with all that said the huge down fall to your book is that about the last 8th of the story was so over the top depressing .... it was just horrific..........I hope your goal was not to send anyone into a downward spiral of depression about the death of a pet they loved .... because unless one is strong enough to read through all that .... depression is sure to set in ....... so I would have to end up giving your book a 3 .... good but really not one to be recommended.
Lily and the Octopus, Steven Rowley, author; Michael Urie, narrator Ted Flask is 34 years old. He is a writer. Lily is 12 years old which is 84 in dog years. She is a dachshund. She is Ted’s dog. Ted was not sure he could ever have a fully committed relationship with anyone or anything until he found Lily, and she changed his life. He completely and unconditionally adores her. Their relationship is one of loyalty and devotion. Ted is fragile and appears to be lonely. He has not had a relationship since he split with his partner, Jeffrey. He has one very best friend, Trent, who stands by him always. Trent is happy. He has a wonderful relationship with his own partner and has a healthy dog. Ted does not envy Trent because of this, rather he deeply appreciates their friendship. He often calls on Trent for support. Ted sees his therapist weekly, but he sometimes seems to view her as his antagonist, occasionally questioning her commitment to him vs. her commitment to her profession. He needs reassurance from many sources, but the dog seems to have the most effective influence on him; she can easily elevate his mood and provide the comfort he requires from others, simply by being there. Then, one day, to his shock, he discovers what he calls an octopus, sitting on Lily’s head. He immediately makes an appointment with the Veterinarian. Soon, he is forced to face the fact that we are all mortal, and that a dog’s lifespan is normally far shorter than man’s. Would he be able to face what might be Lily’s eventual last journey? Can he save her? How committed is he to keeping her alive, regardless of her suffering? Through the relationship of Lily, Ted and the octopus, and through Ted’s own dreams and therapy sessions, Ted learns to face reality, recognize his fantasies and why he needs them. He eventually comes to terms with both living life, accepting himself, and dealing with the fact of death, both his, Lily’s and others. He comes to understand that we are all born with an expiration date, some shorter, some longer. Lily teaches Ted how to live even when faced with the fact that we are all mortal and all of us will eventually die. Does Ted realize he has created a world of fantasy surrounding Lilly? Does he really hear her and the octopus speaking to him? How many of us know dog owners who speak to their dogs and are fully engaged in conversations with them, even when the dog does not respond? Ted has given the dog anthropomorphic qualities that animal lovers will understand and also appreciate. Lily is not his dog, but his child. This is a tender love story on many levels. The narrator’s interpretation of how Lily spoke to Ted was disturbing to me. In an attempt to express the way a dog would pant and speak, he instead presented a dog that sounded like it was breathless and gasping for air. It made me uncomfortable and distracted from his presentation of the rest of the story and characters. The story could have become maudlin, but the author wrote it with humor, creativity and genuine emotion, offering imaginative descriptions and details into the dialogue about dreams and fantasies that made it simply heartwarming. It never became cloying. Can a pet show its owner the way forward? What do you think?
This book wasn't appealing to me. I can cry over "the dog dies at the end" books with the best of them, but this one was just...bizarre. I could empathize, and it may have been well-written(I couldn't tell), but scenes like wrestling with the octopus were just too out there for me.
Wonderful book. Made me laugh and cry.
Like others,I too lost my 13 year old doxie this past year. Brought tears to my eyes. Very emotional read. It meandered a bit on the boat, but was a good read.
This book is, without a doubt, one of the most honest depictions of unconditional love. It is a must read for anyone who has ever loved a pet and felt the emotions of love at first sight, joy of youth and play, the security of everyday life, the complexities of loss, and reflections on a life well lived. Read this and enjoy the journey!
Friends, let me tell you right now, if you are a dog or an animal lover you are going to flat-out ugly cry over “Lily and the Octopus.” I mean snot running down your face, inconsolable, nothing-will-ever-be-ok-again sobbing. The other thing I will tell you is that you will be so, so glad you read it. It’s a beautiful work of literary fiction about the nature of life and love told with a lot of humor and sadness. As the description says, the joy of this particular book is in the reading of it. A summary will not actually convey what it’s all really about, and aside from the crying, I think everyone will take something different away from it. This is definitely one of those novels that is colored by what the reader brings to the table. What “Lily and the Octopus” gave me was the memory of the pain of loss, but most importantly, the memory of love and it all being worth it. Animals and humans alike, they’re worth it in the end. I can’t recommend it enough. This unbiased review is based upon a copy of the book won through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway program.