Book Review: Fifteen Dogs, by André Alexis

Fifteen Dogs was published this past April and has been shortlisted for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize. I received my ARC in January at the OLA Conference, and I was immediately sold on the premise of dogs who receive the godly gift of human awareness and communication. Apollo and Hermes debate on whether having the ability to think in human language and having human intelligence would affect dogs and their innate sense of happiness, and give this gift to fifteen dogs in a nearby vet’s office. These dogs are there for various reasons and are brought together into a new pack by this shared gift.

Apollo and Hermes have determined that the experiment will have been a success if even one of the dogs is happy with his life at the time of his death. How the dogs react to this sudden ability is at the crux of the story. Some accept it, some cannot.

This is not a happy book. It’s a book about the potential for happiness, but it’s not a happy book. Like many people, I have more of a problem with reading or viewing animal cruelty than human cruelty. This book does not shy away from animal cruelty, and be warned – there is animal death.

I found myself wanting to put the book down more than once, but I also found myself wanting to reach the end so I could find out for myself how the debate was resolved. I’m glad I stuck it out, because the book left me thinking, and to me that is the sign of a good book. Alexis’s writing is fluid and poetical, and though I have not read any of the other Scotiabank Giller finalists, I will not be surprised if Fifteen Dogs is given the prize.


About sarscoff

Late 20's, Canadian, library technician, wife, dog mama, reader of all things written.
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