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Lily and the Octopus Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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From Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter Rowley’s sensitive, hilarious, and emotionally rewarding debut novel explores the effect that pets can have on human lives. Teddy is unhappily single in L.A. In between sessions with his therapist and dates with men he meets online, it is his beloved 12-year-old dachshund, Lily, who occupies his heart. Curiously, Teddy is able to communicate with Lily, with whom he debates the attractiveness of male celebrities and plays board games. Distressingly, he is also able to communicate with the “octopus” attached to the little dog’s head, which is soon revealed to be a metaphor for Lily’s lethal cranial tumor. Complicating matters is the increasing prevalence of Lily’s seizures and the looming inevitability of her demise. The intimacy of pet ownership is sweetly suffused throughout this heartwarming autobiographical fiction, originally written as self-therapy for the author’s own grief. In generous helpings of bittersweet humanity, Rowley has written an immensely poignant and touchingly relatable tale that readers (particularly animal lovers) will love. Agent: Rob Weisbach, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. (June)\n
“Lily and the Octopus is the dog book you must read this summer…. Reading this heart-wrenching but ultimately breathtaking novel was a very profound experience…. As Lily might say, ‘YOU! MUST! READ! THIS! BOOK!’”
—The Washington Post
“Startlingly imaginative...‘Lily and the Octopus’ is a love story sure to assert its place in the canine lit pack...Be prepared for outright laughs and searing or silly moments of canine and human recognition. And grab a tissue: THERE! WILL! BE! EYE! RAIN!”
“Sensitive, hilarious, and emotionally rewarding.... The intimacy of pet ownership is sweetly suffused throughout this heartwarming autobiographical fiction... In generous helpings of bittersweet humanity, Rowley has written an immensely poignant and touchingly relatable tale that readers (particularly animal lovers) will love.”
“Steven Rowley’s touching, fresh, energetic novel isn’t simply another ‘boy and his dog’ story. It is a profound exploration of grief—how we find ourselves lost, how we search for reason, how we sacrifice ourselves for our loved ones, all to avoid paying the octopus. But the octopus will be paid. And in settling that debt, in the magical, hopeful world of Lily and the Octopus, we will learn to live—and love—again. A wonderfully moving story.”
—Garth Stein, bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
“An exceedingly authentic, keenly insightful, and heartbreakingly poignant tribute to the purity of love between a pet and its human.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“A quirky and deeply affecting charmer of a novel, Lily and the Octopus is funny, wise, and utterly original in its exploration of what it means to love any mortal creature. This brave little dachshund will capture your heart, as will her prickly, tenderhearted, and irresistible owner. Don't miss their adventures together.”
—Sara Gruen, bestselling author of Water for Elephants
“Singular, spectacular, and touchingly tentacular.”
—Chris Cleave, bestselling author of Little Bee
“You will tear through this big-hearted, inventive novel. A fast and funny read that also happens to be a profound meditation on love and forgiveness, Lily and the Octopus is a delight.”
—Christina Baker Kline, bestselling author of Orphan Train
“Intelligently written, finely observed, and surprisingly moving, this is a book you’ll find hard to put down.”
—Graeme Simsion, bestselling author of The Rosie Project
“A whimsical, touching tale”
“My favorite book of the year: Steven Rowley's Lily and the Octopus. Hilarious, heartbreaking. You will absolutely cry and you will love it."
—Patrick Ness, bestselling author of The Rest of Us Just Live Here
“You don’t need to be a dog lover to enjoy Steven Rowley’s new book, ‘Lily and the Octopus,’ but if you’ve realized you like your dog more than most humans you encounter, this is one you won’t want to miss.”
—Newport Beach Independent
“In his funny, ardent and staunchly kooky way, Rowley expresses exactly what it's like to love a dog.”
“Rowley shares a moving, profound tale of grappling with loss.”
“It is a joyful book; it is also a sincerely written tragedy that invoked the purity of friendship between animal/human family members. It's laughter through tears. Rowley has a sense of humor with just enough morbid sensibility to appeal to a wide audience (even if animal best friend books aren't one's thing). Yet, he navigates the five stages of grief and loss while inspiring others to appreciate the lives we already have.”
“Portland’s Steven Rowley strikes a chord in a moving book about heartache and friendship that is expected to be a big seller this summer.”
—Portland Press Herald
“The connection between man and dog is loud and clear in this sweet novel…”
—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Author Steven Rowley uses humor and pop-culture references to tell a whimsical story of courage in the face of heartbreaking reality. Philosophical and introspective, “Lily and the Octopus” also looks at the transformative power of love, the importance of forgiveness and the beauty of really living, letting ourselves be seen instead of hiding in plain sight…I laughed, I sobbed, and at the end, I felt as if I’d caught up with a friend over coffee.”
—The Free Lance-Star
Top customer reviews
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You do not need to be a dog lover to appreciate this book. You just have to be, you know, not an insensitive a-hole. And even if you are, this might be your weakness (just don't read it in public).
I highly recommend this to everyone. It will knock your socks off.
If you've ever had a sick dog -- heck, if you've ever been lucky enough to have been loved by a dog -- this book is for you. WARNING: this book will make you cry. It may not make you sob uncontrollably like it did for me, but it should create some semblance of "eye rain" (the author's terminology), unless you have a heart like the Grinch's. Reading the author's heartache was cathartic and made me remember Roxie fondly. I knew exactly what he was going through.
The book is semi-autobiographical, but it's a work of fiction, nonetheless. It's told from the narrator's point of view (a gay man), who also happens to have conversations with his dog, Lily, and then the Octopus as well. It sounds a bit strange, but it really works. In fact, when I read the dialogue, I felt like I could hear Lily's sometimes super excited/sometimes mellow voice, and the Octopus' snide, callous voice.
"Dogs have pure souls... Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them. Especially you. Since the day I met you, you have done nothing but make my life better in every possible way." This was the author's response to Lily in response to her inquiry if Karma was reason she had the octopus. Again, eye rain.
The book was very well-written and provided a quick read from chapter to chapter. Besides a tribute to a fantastic dog, the book is also about aging, the aging of our loved ones and ourselves, and coming to terms with both. "I see a younger version of myself at each and it's all I can do not to wave; I wonder what my younger selves would think of me now, if they would recognize me or even care to wave back." That's a very powerful observation and felt so true.
I emphatically loved this book like Lily loved her red ball, and I hope you will, too.
I'm extremely sensitive to all things animal, whether it's a happy story or a sad story.
I had a hard time putting this book down. It was magical and beautiful and frightening and sad all at the same time. Since finishing the book, scenes and thoughts from it have frequently come back to me. In my mind, that's the sign of something really good. Definitely worth reading.
Ted has fun and loving conversations with Lily, capturing her excitement and joy in everyday things. He has angry, dark conversations with the octopus mostly telling him to be gone. He is furious at the octopus and “would pull the walls of this house down on top of him if he weren’t attached to the fragile skull of my deepest love.”
The book is beautifully written, and even during the odd fantasy scenes, such as a sea voyage to find and kill the octopus, the emotional depth is startling.
The ending was heartbreaking. Ted acknowledges for the first time that she has a tumor and that “the body drawing shallow breath beside me is only the shell of my beloved dog. That in almost all respects, she is already gone.” It made me sob as I thought of my beloved dogs, Bandit, who died of liver cancer, and Lucky who died of old age. I challenge anyone to read this without crying.