Friday, March 4, 2011

Review: Love Like a Dog by Anne Calcagno


This debut novel is a page-turning drama about familial devotion. Set in contemporary Chicago, it is the harrowing story of Dirk, a young motherless man desperate for his self-centered father's approval. A rescued pit bull alters their lives irrevocably, embroiling them in the terrible misuses to which the breed is prey.

As Dirk's father grows increasingly entangled in criminal activity, Dirk must quickly come to terms with a series of legal and moral crises and determine for himself what it truly means to be a man.


  • Pub. Date: June 2010
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
The Elliott Review:

This book knocked my socks off. It's a very realistic tale of a boy finding his place in the world. Melancholy and poignant, it rings true in so many ways. It is so perfectly paced and so real emotionally speaking that it feels almost like a memoir written by the main character after the fact. I'm always enthralled by stories dealing with dogs, but this goes far beyond a typical "dog" story in terms of development and theme and meaning.

The development of Dirk's character is superb. He deals with the issues of a child and then a teenager growing up without a mom and dealing with an emotionally distant dad. As Dirk deals with his relationship with his father, he feels distant from the world and closest to his dogs. When his father's behavior threatens them, he comes to realize the differences between his father and himself. He has to work out what he truly wants to do and be.

Another thing that just feels right are all the complex relationships. The way Dirk and his father interact is very realistic, moving but filled with underlying sorrow. Dirk's relationship to his dogs is his most profound influence. The desire to care for them trumps anything else in life. His father's ex-girlfriend sees a spark in him and refuses to stop helping/mentoring him even after she is no longer dating his father. The friend that doesn't quite understand where Dirk is coming from but accepts him unconditionally any way. The girl who loves him but is inaccessible.

The book also raises awareness about is the good traits of pit bulls instead of what they are better known for - the fighting. Dirk comes to see the dark underbelly of the dogfighting world and has to decide what his stance will be.

This is an amazing book that will appeal to dog lovers instantly, but I also recommend to anyone who loves a deep story between father and son and spotless characterization.

Source: A copy of book provided by publicist for a fair review.

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