Composer Alan Lazar’s debut novel traces the life of Nelson, a half-beagle, half-poodle mutt who is put up for adoption at a Boston pet store—a disappointment to the shop owner, who prefers dogs with a pedigree. Two weeks later, Nelson is in danger of being sent to the pound when newlyweds Katey, a concert pianist, and her husband Don decide Nelson is the dog for them. All goes well for two years, but when Katey and Don’s marriage starts to fall apart due to Don’s infidelity, Nelson escapes from their yard and quickly becomes lost. Katey searches for him for weeks, but eventually gives up.

Over the next eight years, Nelson has many adventures. He sees the world from the passenger seat of the truck; scavenges from dumpsters; finds a female friend who helps stave off his loneliness; escapes from two shelters, losing a hind leg in the process; and even lives with a pack of wolves for several months. Through it all, he never loses sight of his goal to reunite with Katey, his “Great Love.”

Carrying through Nelson’s lengthy odyssey is his fine-tuned sense of smell—the incredibly reliable survival mechanism that never fails to keep him from starvation, leads him to friendly humans and steers him away from danger. Lazar’s portrayal of its power will ring true for dog owners. Roam will appeal most strongly to pet lovers—a not-insignificant proportion of the reading public—and will likely be added to bookshelves that include titles like Dewey the Library Cat, The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Lazar has crafted an adventure guaranteed to capture the interest of the reader—who hopes, like Nelson, that the dog will somehow make it home to Katey.

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