Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Liam's pug book club: Reviewing Margo Kaufman's story of Clara

Liam the pug posing next to a book

Full disclosure: Liam the pug can't read. But, he can weigh in on specific aspects of a book, especially if I read things to him. And we'll put that skill to the test this week, as he helps me to review Margo Kaufman's book "Clara: The Story of the Pug That Ruled My Life."

The book's jacket suggested that this would be a great little read for people who love pugs. Liam and I would agree, up to a point. You see, the last fourth of the book has to do with the author's interest in adopting a child from another country. It's an important subject to the author and to her husband, but really, the paperwork and legal wrangling that comes with an adoption has nothing to do with pugs.

So Liam and I skipped the final fourth of the book. If you're hoping to read exclusively about pugs, I'd suggest that you do the same. Or, if you'd like to read about international adoption and skip the whole pug thing, jump on back to the last 100+ pages of the book and start there. Hardly any pug mentions appear there.

When Kaufman does talk about one of her pugs, Clara, she's remarkably accurate. For example, she spends a significant amount of time discussing how much Clara likes to have her photograph taken, and how willing she is to pose for the camera. Clearly, this is a description that resonates with Liam. Look how well he's posing next to the book! And I didn't even have treats!

But the trouble is that Kaufman had two pugs, and the mentions of the other (Sophie) don't seem either loving nor flattering. Kaufman suggests that Sophie is slightly demented, more than a little annoying and hard to live with. She says Sophie "...exasperates me more than any living creature..." and those are sentences I just don't enjoy reading. I kept wondering why she didn't invest in better training, better treats, more exercise or better solutions. And if that failed, I wondered why she didn't work to find Sophie a home in which she was loved. Endless descriptions of Sophie's faults hit me wrong, and reading the sentences aloud caused Liam to do a lot of head tipping (I think he was wondering what I was mad about). For us, these were hard passages to ignore.

In the end, this isn't a book Liam or I would recommend for people who are trying to learn about the pug breed. Kaufman was a gifted writer, and she knew how to turn some serious sentences, but her hateful descriptions and long tangents made this a less-than-ideal read for people hoping to get a glimpse of life with a pug.

Liam hopes I'll pick a better book for his next review. I'll certainly try! Any suggestions?

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