Dog Book Review: Angelo’s Journey
Angelo is a border collie, living in a remote area of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Angelo’s Journey tells the story of when he went missing for more than five weeks in 2010. Here is our book review.
A high-concept, 86-page novella, Angelo’s Journey mixes some known and many imagined adventures from those 40 days Angelo spent away from Leland Dirks — part hermit, part blogger (aka HermitBlog.com), part border collie worshiper.
Book Review: Angelo’s Journey
Through raw vignettes into the lives of people he encounters along the way, Angelo serves as witness, confidante, victim, and even priest to an actual priest before a watchful UPS driver (like Charlie, the one we had here in our valley for many years … before he retired) spotted Angelo and alerted Dirks to his whereabouts.
Dirks has taken some criticism for the brutal second chapter. You see, many dog book readers have come to expect sappy canine antics and anecdotes with highly sanitized, affluent human characters. Angelo’s Journey is much grittier than that.
For me, it wasn’t the plot details but the stark narrative jump from Dirk’s own mind to that of Angelo’s suspected abductor that threw me for a bit. It wasn’t until I read a few more chapters that I got the rhythm of the book and recognized the literary construct for what it was. So, if you read Angelo’s Journey (and I recommend that you do), simply know that each chapter features a separate narrator / character and that “The Man” and “The WildMan” are not the same person … as I first worried.
You should know that it takes a LOT to throw me. I’m a big fan of Toni Morrison, and if you know her work, you know it is anything BUT simple timelines or single narrators. All these years later, I still contend that the final two pages of Beloved are the best two pages of prose written in the 20th century. And, there is a scene in Jazz, where a pet bird makes a devastating emotional discovery that haunts me decades later.
Angelo’s Journey has a bit of that feeling to it. It’s rather haunting. And, yet, it’s funny and uplifting in the ways those of us who live in rural areas, who work from home in anything but 9-to-5 careers, who spend more time with dogs than with people will understand.
As I lounged in my camping chair with footrest under our aspen trees a couple Saturdays ago, I looked up from the book and at my amazing, smiling girl … again and again … and felt nothing but gratitude and awe for everything she is. All thanks to who Angelo is.
In many ways, Angelo’s encounters with people remind me of the time Lilly met a woman while we were out shopping before the holidays in town. Lilly seemed particularly drawn to this woman, which is unusual for our fearful girl. So, I allowed it, and before she left the local shop, the woman told me (with tears in her eyes), that I’d never know how much it meant to her.
My only real note on the writing itself is that in several spots Dirks continues by just one too many sentences. Rather than leave the moment humming, the narrators sometimes “tell” when the story itself had already “shown” it perfectly. So, if I was in Dirks’ writing critique group, I’d have him really LOOK at the last sentences of future scenes or chapters with a machete in his eye.
Then, again, I’m FAMOUS for simply ending where I want to end, and I’m forever having editors tell me, “This needs a conclusion.” So, maybe that’s my baggage.
Angelo’s Journey is available for e-readers. However, since I do not have one, Leland Dirks was nice enough to mail me a printed copy of the book for free. Otherwise, I was in no way compensated for this review.