A girl and her dog
Sight Hound should come with a warning label: Beware of Dog. Dante, the cancer-afflicted, amputee Irish Wolfhound of the title, will steal your heart. Dante's is one of the many points of view that make up the narrative of Pam Houston's first novel (following her witty short-story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness). Others include Rae, the playwright who owns Dante; Howard, the man who finally brings Rae happiness in human form; Rae's housekeeper Darlene; Sophie, a young human amputee who has been partnered in a special program with Dante; and Stanley, Darlene's cat. Rae, whose "many childhood abuses" are never detailed (a welcome discretion), has had a lot of bad luck with men until she meets Howard, an actor who likes to wear purple, and their relationship's strength is tested by the return of Dante's cancer. Writing from an animal's point of view is always a risky venture, but Houston more than pulls it off, though Stanley's voice seems a bit stereotypical of cats and thus more superficial than that of the dogs. This is not to say that it is not convincing ("I've got everybody under control here, and that's the way I like it."). Dante's chapters reveal him to be a student of Eastern philosophy (Houston's gift is such that you never doubt that for a moment), and his struggle to prepare both himself and his human female owner for his death is very moving. I spent much of this book from about the second section on sniffling back tears, while at the same time admiring Houston's ability to describe the remarkable relationships that can occur between humans and animals. Although this is a novel that will greatly appeal to those who have already realized such relationships, it may also be the perfect vehicle to convince those who haven't of the possibilities of communion with another species. Joanne Collings writes from Washington, D.C.