Title: Dawg Towne
Author: Alice Kaltman
Publisher: Word West Press
Published: 1 June 2021
I received an ebook through Books Forward Friends in exchange for an honest review. This review will not be spoiler-free
When I read the summary of the book, I thought it would be a quirky novel about a suburban town and a case of missing dogs. But once I started reading it became much more. There is a slight plot of the missing dogs, upwards of 20 go missing, throughout the book, but it is mainly about the people of the town. How they experience life in a one-year period. I’m going to review this by going through the main characters of the novel because that seems like the best mousetrap.
First off, there’s Towne. At the beginning of each season, Towne talks about what they are thinking and feeling. Towne is a cognizant character that loves the people who live there and find them fascinating creatures.
The first human character we’re introduced to is Nell. Nell is one of those prodigy genius kids who grow up to be nothing special. Her parents are these upper-crust society-type people who only care about Nell’s accomplishments as it relates to them. Due to this, Nell doesn’t have a lot of emotional maturity or street smarts. I’m hesitant to say whether she’s autistic or not because I’m not a medical professional. I could definitely see it, but I could also see this as a whole she wasn’t given the proper emotional tools from her parents and therefore doesn’t know how to properly interact with people. In the novel, she ends up back home and is supposed to be taking care of her parent’s house while they’re off in Spain. And one day, Nell sees a dog tied to a post and decides to take him. This starts her journey into dog-napping (is that a word? I don’t know, but I’m using it).
Abe is a stay-at-home dad, who doesn’t seem to know what he wants in life. He’s binge-watching sports all day, which is whatever, but he has a son to take care of and a house that’s a pigsty. Again, if it doesn’t bother you, that’s fine, but he’s not the only one living there. It doesn’t help that he’s supposed to be writing the next “Great American Novel.” He also complains a lot about how his wife has changed since their son was born, which she probably has because she’s a mom now. But I’m also hesitant to fully take Abe’s side since we only have his side; his wife is not given her own point of view. Abe’s dog is the first one to go missing. He tied Gordon, the dog, to a post so he could go get a candy bar from the gas station store. Once he came back, Gordon was gone.
The next character is Paddy, a curmudgeonly person who is just going through the motions. It does make some sense though. His wife was diagnosed with dementia, and Paddy and Mariah decided to take a rafting trip before it got worse. On this trip, Mariah catapults herself over the raft. The people with them try to find her but her body was taken away. So, Paddy is trying to do his best to make do with the life he has now. He and Mariah had tried to have children, but nothing came of it. All they had was tons of dogs. The only one left with Paddy at this age is Barney and of course, he is soon taken.
David is my favorite of the characters in the novel. He’s a teenage boy/girl/person who’s trying to figure himself out when he’s not sure what he is. We’re first introduced to David on the morning of their bar mitzvah, yet while he’s on his way to becoming a man, he’s never felt more like a woman. David’s chapters are interspersed with his need to steal women’s clothing (before finally coming out to his mom who buys him clothes) and struggling with feelings on gender and sexuality. It’s reminiscent of my own self at that age trying to figure out what was going on with myself and others and why I felt the way I felt.
David’s mom is the next character we meet, Lucinda. She’s a typical divorced woman living in the suburbs. She’s trying to do her best for her child while trying to get her interior design business up and running. Then who moves in across the street but a famous movie star, Brady, whose house has seen better days. It doesn’t come as a shock that Lucinda and Brady start an affair. But once David finally tells Lucinda about his struggles, I am proud of the fact that she does all she can to help them. Her first reaction was not a good one, but she came back and made up for it.
The last character is, of course, the movie star, Brady Cole. The relationship he starts with Lucinda is interesting because while Lucinda is just there to work on the house and hopefully get more clients through this, Brady actually “falls in love with her.” I’m using air quotes for that because I think Brady is just super into a weird cult. Yes, I said cult. The cult is why Brady moved out here to move away from temptation. He’s in a class with this guru who’s all about men being beauteous. And yeah, I can somewhat get behind that but the dress/cassock-like get-up, the dulcimer, and the weird eating habits are a no for me.
Through all of these stories each of the characters has a dog go “missing,” (dognapped). Nell has this idea that the people don’t treat the dogs well, on multiple occasions she refers to the dogs’ previous lives as slaves and the humans as masters, which was a bit much. It was also hypocritical that she thought she knew better than them. Yes, this does go back to her whole not having those social skills. But at times she understands that what she’s doing is wrong. So, while she doesn’t have the social skills to understand humans, it’s still not acceptable to steal other people’s dogs. This was a big part of the book that really annoyed me. Nell just was so dead certain she was right, even with recognizing her actions as wrong, that I just didn’t want to read her sections. Truthfully, most of these characters annoyed me throughout the book (except David). Even by the end, I wasn’t really rooting for any of them (again, except David and Lucinda did come around for me). It was a quirky book that explored a lot of themes, but at the same time, I think a lot of those themes got lost as there were so many of them. And I still don’t get the point of dog stealing.
Happy Reading Darlings!