July 3 – 9, 2020Vol. 22, No. 4

Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs

by Martha F. Barkley

Another stirring memoir, Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan, is quite the read for dog lovers and non dog owners alike. Many people have adopted pets during these strange days of isolation, so walking the dog has become essential in many lives in Belgrade Lakes and all over our country.

Boylan's magical writing describes Fourth of July on Long Lake:

As twilight came on, we sat in our boat to watch the fireworks explode above the lake. There we floated together, my son and I, as the sparks drifted down all around us…Later, I climbed the stairs to my bed — stairs that Ranger, in his old age, could no longer ascend. There were still a few scattered fireworks — crackers and chrysanthemums, time rains and jellyfish — falling on the lake, and the world seemed like a place made mysterious by noise and light and smoke.

Many Fourths of July are reviewed in Boylan's memories of meeting his wife Deedie, their two children together and actually more dogs than I can count. He includes his sister's dog brought home from college and his parents' need for a puppy later in life as they were without a dog for awhile. (Editor's Note: At the time, pior to gender reassignment surgery, Boylan was James Finney Boylan.)

Our newly established Oliver & Friends Bookshop and Reading Room in the Village is where I met owner Renee and bought this 2020 book. Greeting my husband Frank and me warmly, Renee discussed various books and authors she has met. Wonderful love of reading is evident.

Actually, each of the seven main dogs are chapter titles, from "Playboy, 1969" all the way through "Ranger, 2018." I was pleased to find midway a meeting between Jenny and her sister. I was startled by the person the book is dedicated to.

"I'm pretty sure that if there is a reason why we are here on this planet, it is in order to love one another. It is, as the saying goes, all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

Jenny writes about the all time record breaker of a dog in Western Australia. Jimpa, a Lab/boxer mix, miraculously "traveled two thousand miles to be with the one he loved".

She researches poetry written by a dear friend who died over thirty years ago and finds the words archived at John Hopkins University Library, thanks to a very wonderful librarian: "I have never met a librarian who was not helpful…"

Biking to the Sunset Grill is fun to read about as the dog is left at home for safe keeping: "Days in a house with children grind by like glaciers, but the years rush by like wind." How true and how attached we become to our family pets.

Read and enjoy Jenny Boylan's lyrical woods and moose and lake descriptions, along with family episodes hard to forget (because seven main character dogs are all important glue for the family).

I missed her weekly column in the Kennebec Journal a few years ago, so I called the editor and was told how newspaper staffs are shrinking. How good to find that Jennifer Finney Boylan has an alternate Wednesday New York Times column. My two books by Boylan on my bookshelf by the lake are She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You, both memoirs.

Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book, writes on the back cover, "Beautiful, tender, and utterly engaging. Good Boy measures out Boylan's life in dog years. The result is a gorgeous memoir, full of heart and insight."