Book Review, Memoir

Book Review: Marley & Me by John Grogan


I’m late to the Marley & Me party, I know.  It’s already been a best selling book and a movie. My brother has already read it and recommended it to me numerous times.  Still, when I read a book that moves my heart…a memoir or true story that I can’t put down, that I read from cover to cover in one day…it’s a sure sign of a great book, and a book I want to review.

For those who don’t know the plot, Marley & Me is the true story of a big, goofy, badly behaved yellow Labrador Retriever named Marley and his relationship with his human family, the Grogans. The books begins with newlyweds John and Jenny impulsively deciding to get a dog. They agree not to get a dog at the first place they stop, but guess what? They look at a litter of Lab puppies and fall in love with the boldest and goofiest of the lot.  After arguing about names, they settle on Marley, and off we go into the adventures of life with a psychotic dog.

The stories in this book rang so true to life, from Marley’s thunder-crazed demolition of the family’s garage to the very human heartbreak of the Grogan’s first child ending in a miscarriage.   The first part of the book that takes place in South Florida is more interesting than the section that details Marley’s middle age in Boca Raton, but the ending, when the Grogans move to Pennsylvania, is heart breaking.  You know it’s coming, because after all, dogs don’t live forever, but it’s heartbreaking nonetheless.

I loved this book and found Grogan’s writing style clear, fresh and engaging. Some of the criticisms of the book that I read on Goodreads were so ridiculous that I want to mention them here.  Many of those that gave the book only one star in their review criticized the Grogans for being “clueless” dog owners.  Well, have you ever thought that if they were sophisticated, adept dog trainers that this book wouldn’t have been half as interesting? It’s the honesty that I found refreshing in this book. Yes, they made mistakes. Yes, they put a dog afraid of thunder in a crate, and the dog injured his paws trying to claw his way out.  Yes, they could have worked harder on Marley’s training from the start. But what would the story have been life then? Boring!

Good dogs don’t make interesting stories. Most of the more interesting saints are interest purely because of their conversion from sinner to saint.  Stories of bad boys are always more interesting that stories of good guys. Marley & Me is like the bad boy dog story of all time, told from the point of view of a sophisticated journalist with a clear, succinct writing style. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to reading Grogan’s other memoirs.


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