Review of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

I am an absolute sucker for a good story about man’s best friend so when I happened about Steven Rowley’s Lily and the Octopus at my local public library, I couldn’t help myself. To put it simply, this story is about a man named Ted whose best friend is his aging dachshund named Lily. After discovering a tumor, or “octopus,” on her head, Ted struggles to come to terms with losing the one thing he never imagined life without.

As someone who lost a four-legged friend to an octopus of her own, I thought Rowley did a phenomenal job of capturing the unique bond between a person and their dog as well as the heart-wrenching moments when you are forced to say goodbye. However, I thoughts the personification of Lily’s brain tumor as an octopus watered down the significance of Ted and Lily’s relationship. As cheesy as it may sound, I found myself longing for a montage that showed how Lily has helped Ted through his various struggles. Instead, the reader is left to navigate these seemingly never-ending, elaborate, octopus-destroying fantasies that left me very confused. While I understand that referring to the tumor as an”octopus” was a coping mechanism for Ted, there were many moments, such as the inflatable shark bit, where I thought it went too far and absolutely overpowered what could have been a truly remarkable story.

While I do find Steven Rowley to be a very talented writer overall, I believe this story could have been a lot better. To put this book in the same league as Life of Pi simply because they both feature fantastical relationships between man and animals is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. While Yann Martel’s Life of Pi offered eloquent and thought-provoking commentary on the human condition, Steven Rowley’s “octopus” did nothing more than detract from the beautiful relationship between Ted and Lily.

3 out of 5 stars

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