Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I hate to do this to you, but I'm not going to tell you much of anything about Steven Rowley's lovely and magical Lily and the Octopus. It came to me blind from a kind publisher's rep who happened to notice I like dogs. I read the title, saw the cover, and was all-in to give it a go. I didn't know anything else about it.

Most of the publicity I've seen for the book doesn't share many (if any) details. It was so much better that way. It's what the book screams for, even on the inside flap of the advanced reader's edition: "The magic of this novel is in the read, so we don't want to spoil it by giving away too many details." I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. So what I'm going to do is this:

I'm going to tell you the story is about forty-something Ted and his best friend, Lily the Dachshund.

I'm going to tell you theirs is a special relationship many dog (and other pet) lovers will recognize.

I'm going to tell you that Ted and Lily will take you on a transformational ride through love and devotion and courage that you truly don't want to miss.

I'm not gonna lie, it hits some deep emotional tones. But it's also one of the most uproariously funny books I've read in quite some time.

I'm going to ask you to ask yourself the following questions:

Have you ever:

Loved a dog?
Felt powerless?
Had your heart broken?
Felt in a rut?
Needed a kick in the ass?
Questioned your life?
Questioned karma?
Wondered about your ability to love?
Wondered about your ability to be loved?
Pondered your mortality?
Been a sucker for a Coach speech? (Friday Night Lights 4Eva!)
Been tested?
Run from life?

I think that likely covers just about everyone, right? Everyone, go read this book. It can be a bit of a strange trip in places, and there were moments when I wondered where the hell it was going. It even almost lost me in one section. I thought there was no way Rowley could pull the story out with any plausibility or meaning. And yet, he did. Again and again. By the time I hit the end, I was deeply in love with it.

I have a feeling you might connect to at least one of the themes or issues that Ted's going through. I know I related to Ted and his mindset so closely it was eerie. I'd venture a guess that I'm not alone in that, but sometimes it feels that way. Reading about Ted and Lily helped me feel not so alone and not so dysfunctional. So in many respect, this lovely, hilarious, magical book is a miracle.

STREET SENSE:  If you're looking for a book with a little magic, that special "something," here it is.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  My therapist's office is painted the color of unsalted butter. Sitting in that office on the couch with the one broken spring that made it just maddeningly shy of comfortable, I have often thought of shoving the whole room into a mixing bowl with brown sugar  and flour and vanilla and chocolate chips. I crave cookies when I'm annoyed, when I feel I know better than those around me. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven, with the chocolate soft but not melted. I don't know the derivation of this comfort craving, but there's a quote from Cookie Monster that's always inhabited my head: "Today me will live in the moment, unless it's unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie." While I don't take all of my mantras from goggle-eyed blue monsters with questionable grammar, this one has taken root. Lately I've been craving cookies a lot.

COVER NERD SAYS:  Even though I'm a big dog girl, covers featuring small dogs still catch my eye, and the art work on Lily's cover made it all the more attractive. I'm a sucker for the brown and blue color palette as well as the artsy feel of the piece. I can't even explain why I had a visceral attraction to the cover in addition to those two elements. There's just something about it that speaks to the unique nature of the story. This cover gets an A+ in my book.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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