Book Review – Marley and Me

I recently decided that I would attempt to read not only books that are published and widely read within the Christian community, but also in the mainstream. To that end I walked into a Los Angeles Barnes & Nobles on Saturday and decided I would buy whatever was listed as being the current top seller among non-fiction. It just so happened that this dubious honor went to Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“John and Jenny were just beginning their life together. They were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.” That description from the slip cover, obviously written by an editor, does not quite do justice to the back-story, but does give a general idea of the premise for this story. John and his wife, newly married, decided to sharpen their parenting skills, which they thought they would soon need, by purchasing a dog. They ended up with Marley, a crazy, loveable Labrador Retriever. In my experience, Labs tend to come in two flavors: mellow or crazy. Marley was of the crazy variety. And he wasn’t only crazy, but also big, tipping the scales at nearly 100 pounds. And he was active. And perhaps most noticeably, he was mentally unstable. He was the type of dog most people would have given up on.

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Grogan, an accomplished and skillful writers, goes on to tell the story of the following thirteen years of his life, showing the centrality of Marley in the lives of the growing family. The story is, on the whole, quite clean, though there is the occasional expletive worked into the text – this is a story that is more appropriate for adults than children. More than being only the story of a dog, this is the story of a family and the crazy pet that they all loved (most of the time). Marley was a part of the family, constantly challenging the love and patience (and pocketbooks) of his owners. He shared in the joys and pains of the family, even to the point of comforting Jenny in the aftermath of a heartbreaking miscarriage.

Marley & Me isn’t the type of book that will change a life. But it will warm a heart and provide more than a few good laughs. Those readers who own dogs, and Labs in particular, will probably nod their heads knowingly more than a few times. It is a tale of nearly infinite love and patience. It is the story of a man who loves his animal far more than I ever could. And I guess that is an admirable thing.

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