Friday, July 8, 2016

LILY AND THE OCTOPUS BY STEVEN ROWLEY - BLOG TOUR + BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

Today, I am partnering with Simon and Schuster and some other bloggers in the Summer Fiction Blog Tour to bring you all a bunch of highly anticipated books of the year, over the course of 5 weeks with 5 different bloggers!


This week, we are all sharing our reviews of Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. Thanks so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. As always, all opinions are my own.


Going into this book, I really had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that this book was about a guy and his dog, and the person, or dog, you can't live without. The synopsis is very vague, and in truth, the in book synopsis was little more than a few sentences of the same ideas.

What you end up getting in this book is something so much deeper.

Right off the bat, you are introduced to the main character Ted, and his dachshund, Lily. Their relationship is very different, and Lily, it appears, talks to Ted. I wasn't sure if this was a magical realism element, or just a Valium induced hallucination (we find out later Ted has fears of substance addiction). Still, the story was cute and interesting, so I stuck it out. From pretty much the 6th page of the book, we learn that Lily has an "octopus" on her head; quite clearly, a tumour on her brain.

A lot of this book is spent with Ted trying to make the most of his numbered days with Lily. As with all grieving, he doesn't accept the tumour for what it is. He sees it as a separate creature that he can get to remove itself from Lily and they can go back to normal life.

In the midst of Lily's medical issues, Ted also deals with the issues of regular, every day life. The fact that he hasn't had a serious relationship for over a year, that he's forty-two and just kind of lives in this made-up world where everything is sunshine and talking dogs. His tense relationship with his mother, a flashback chapter where he deals with another one of Lily's medical scares while simultaneously attending his sister's city hall wedding across the country, playing photographer, witness, family of the bride, and "man of honour."

This book had an almost dream-like quality to it. It sucked you in and didn't let go. I read it in one sitting of about 4 hours. I kept waiting for the end when everything was just a horrible Wizard of Oz dream and Ted would wake up and Lily would be okay.

I think the most important part of this book is that it is so relatable. Firstly, if you have a dog, or any pet really, this book will shatter you. Like Marley and Me: The Movie shatter you. No spoilers. Anyways, you can't read this book without getting emotional. I don't want to spoil whether or not Lily dies in the end, but there are just so many close calls and nostalgic moments that will make you want to cuddle your pooch a little more.

I wasn't surprised when I read the author's note at the end saying this story was inspired by his dog Lily and their life together. I could just tell from the way he described the heart wrenching events, that he had been through this experience first hand.

Even if you don't have a pet, you can still relate to this book. It talks about losing the one person who has always been there for you. It doesn't matter if this person is your best friend, your mom, your husband or your dog; they made an impact on your life, and it would be significantly different without them in it. The author touches on this loss in a very open and honest way, never sugar-coating Ted's feelings about losing Lily.

The seriousness of these topics are juxtaposed with the fun elements of magical realism throughout the book, Ted playing Monopoly with Lily every Friday night, Thursday walks sitting on benches talking about which one of the Chrises is cuter, Hemsworth, Evans or Pratt. Even just the way Lily "talked" to Ted, WITH! SHOUTY! CAPS! AND! LOTS! OF! EXCLAMATION! POINTS! I could almost see her little body jumping up and down with excitement.

A couple things I wasn't a fan of, the whole boat/octopus/fisherman section. I just was really confused as to what was going on and how much time was passing. Part of me feels like they did go on the boat and just kind of fell into a heat stroke hallucination for three weeks? The lines between reality and illusion were so blurred at some points, I had a hard time just generally deciding what was really going on.

Overall, I did really enjoy this book. I was just a little skeptical of some stuff going on...

Stay tuned for the next week, the last one of the tour, with the reviews of In a Dark, Dark Wood! And don't forget to check out the Simon and Schuster's Read Chill Repeat website for more info and to enter for a chance to win a set of books + one year of free coffee from Aroma Espresso Bar!