"Sight Hound" by Pam Houston Norton, 342 pp., $23. 95 Anybody who's been subjected to "Old Yeller" as a child knows to be leery of stories...
by Pam Houston
Norton, 342 pp., $23.95
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Anybody who’s been subjected to “Old Yeller” as a child knows to be leery of stories about dogs. They’ll end up breaking your heart.
And so to “Sight Hound,” the much anticipated debut novel from the marvelous short-story writer Pam Houston. As you might discern from the title, a canine is central to the story. Dante is a wolfhound whose great size is dwarfed only by his immense capacity for love. Rae is Dante’s human. She’s met with professional success as a playwright, but her personal life is a shambles after a series of failed relationships. She relies on her dog for the constancy she has not found elsewhere.
Author Houston strings together a series of first-person narratives, giving different characters a chance to voice their takes on Rae’s situation, and on her relationship with Dante (which will seem extraordinary only to people who don’t have pets — animal lovers will understand completely the bond she has with her dog).
As fans of Houston’s writing have come to expect, her characters are outspoken and original.
The author of “Sight Hound” will read at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St. in Seattle. Free (206-624-6600; www.elliottbaybook.com).
Dante the dog has the very best insights. Here, for example, is his assessment of humans: “They are such fragile creatures to begin with, with poor eyes, poorer hearing, and no sense of smell left to speak of, it’s no wonder they are made of fear.” Reading from various points of view about Rae’s travails and eventual transcendence is undeniably engaging. But given the format Houston has used, the reading experience is somewhat disjointed, too.
The story line itself, which twins Dante’s physical health with Rae’s emotional well-being, doesn’t seem to be sufficient. It feels like an intermediate step between short stories and a full-blown novel.
Even so, you can count on “Sight Hound” to have a tear-blinding ending. Didn’t I warn you about stories about dogs?