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Marley & Me: A Memoir

a book by John Grogan - a humorous account of life with an atypical labrador retriever

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Marley and Me: Nonconformist or Menace, You Decide

  • Dec 29, 2010
I bought a copy of John Grogan's Marley & Me in a CVS two years ago (this was, of course, before I started boycotting CVS, but that's a topic for another blog post) but didn't get around to reading it until this past Sunday. I read most of it in one sitting, starved for the luxury of curling up with the proverbial good book.

If you've been following this blog with any regularity, then you know that I don't like dogs. My sister's two shih zhus are the only dogs for which I've ever felt any sort of affection (they're so darned cute that they managed to melt my Cruella Deville heart), and even they sometimes intimidate me despite their diminutive size. So, given my feeling, why would I want to read a memoir about a man and his Labrador retriever?

Partly, it had to do with the fact that it was made into a movie, a movie that I'd happened to see. Although I'm a professed reader, I'm not immune to the effect of feature films on otherwise snubbed books (not that this book was ever in that category) and have been known to run out and buy such titles after being snowed by a glitzy trailer. Another reason I wanted to read Marley & Me was because the bf loves dogs so much - and I was curious to find out what made dog people tick. Finally, although I'm not a dog person, I am a book person. And I knew that author John Grogan was a newspaper columnist qualified to deliver a good yarn.

I was right. Marley & Me was well-written. And as in the movie, it wasn't just the tale of a man and his dog, but of the evolution of a couple and then a family. I enjoyed the descriptions of West Palm Beach, Florida (even if I did have to skip over the bloody parts - the Grogans' first neighborhood was an unseemly one), and the glimpse into newspaper life. As for the parts about Marley, well, they awed me, for better or worse.

I found myself wondering about the connection between people and their pets and the lengths people are willing to go to in the name of it. As I'm sure you know, Marley was a terror. He ate everything in sight, including pregnancy tests, jewelry, and chicken feces; knocked strangers over; destroyed entire rooms to the point of harming himself; and got kicked out of obedience school. His "exuberance" couldn't be daunted by even vet-dispensed doggie tranquilizers and inevitably resulted in small fortunes worth of damages (at one point John jokes that he could've bought a yacht with what he'd spent). Yet save for one section in which John's wife Jenny, who is suffering from postpartum depression, orders him to get rid of Marley, disowning the yellow tornado is never an option. (Of course, they don't get rid of Marley. John works extra hard to train him, and Jenny emerges from her depression.) Interestingly, it is at this point that John reveals the true secret of Marley's appeal: "As pathetic as it sounds, Marley had become my male-bonding soul mate, my near-constant companion, my friend. He was the undisciplined, recalcitrant, nonconformist, politically incorrect free spirit I had always wanted to be, had I been brave enough, and I took vicarious joy in his unbridled verve. No matter how complicated life became, he reminded me of its simple joys. No matter how many demands were placed on me, he never let me forget that willful disobedience is sometimes worth the price. In a world full of bosses, he was his own master" (140).

I paused, so struck by the words that I reread the passage. It was pretty powerful stuff. For a minute I forgot that Marley was a smelly, hell-raising dog, instead seeing him as John did, a symbol of freedom and all the things most of us wanted to be.

Yet symbol of freedom or not, I found it hard to understand how one family could allow an animal to turn their lives upside down. The parts involving bowels, vomit, and drool were downright disgusting. As for normal life, it was a nightmare. The Grogans couldn't go out to dinner without churning stomachs for fear of what havoc Marley may wreak in their absence. They couldn't refurbish their home without acknowledging that all their hard work and money would most likely be wasted. Having food stolen off their plates was a daily occurrence. Every garment they owned was covered in dog hair, and they couldn't walk through their yard without dodging, well, you know. These harsh realities exposed their existence as the very antithesis of freedom. Such a life would drive me insane.

Even so, I had tears in my eyes when they had to put Marley to sleep.

The bf, of course, pounced upon this nugget of information, renewing his campaign for us to adopt a beagle. But I was quick to wipe my eyes and begin carping about how I didn't want our lives disrupted. There are few things I hate more, after all, than factors that threaten to alter my admittedly lazy and sometimes selfish existence. I said as much to the bf, and he just sighed and said he knew.

Still, I fear that one of these days he may break me.

So, what do you think? I know that many of you must be dog owners, and I'm curious to hear your thoughts and experiences, whether they be reminiscent of John's or otherwise.

For more book reviews and other fun stuff, visit my blog at www.thetotetrove.blogspot.com
Marley and Me: Nonconformist or Menace, You Decide

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January 04, 2011
Sounds like a fantastic and compelling read. I've been wanting to read this one and see the film.
More Marley & Me: Life And Love Wit... reviews
review by . January 10, 2010
Marley & Me: A Memoir
I simply had to have this book after watching the movie.  The novel is solidly written and while the movie sticks pretty much to the book, there's so much more detail of the life of John Grogan, his family, and good old Marley that you'll want to make sure and pick up both movie and book.   John Grogan was a reporter turned columnist in South Florida when he and his bride Jenny purchased an adorable little puppy and named him Marley, after Bob Marley.  Marley proved, while growing …
review by . June 22, 2010
John Grogan got it right. I have had dogs my entire life, and work as a volunteer at a dog shelter. There are so many amazing little moments we have with our dogs, and that is something that usually becomes a "you had to be there" moment.       But Mr. Grogan captures all the "you had to be there" moments in his book Marley and Me so accurately it felt like I was raising Marley, too.      I hesitated to read this book for a long time …
review by . October 05, 2010
Pros: excellent story, funny, entertaining      Cons: the book is about dogs and I definitely am not a fan of dogs      The Bottom Line: Very humorous book that shows how people can truly grow around an animal and begin to welcome that animal as a major part of their lives.      I'm not exactly sure when I first started hating dogs, but I'm assuming it was probably when I actually had to take care of one myself for the first time. …
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
If you love dogs you will love this book. It really is a good account of dog ownership.
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Movie was good, but I find the book very hard to get into. For some reason, I fall asleep every time I try to read it.
review by . July 07, 2010
Don't Miss This One!
Has anyone ever thought about what it would be like to live with the world's worst dog? By reading this book the reader may just start to be able to understand what it would feel like. I haven't read a book with so much great detail in a long time, and "Marley and Me" by Josh Grogan is just that kind of book. Josh Grogan, born in Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, is also the author of his own memoir, "The Longest Trip" Home, and has loved writing since he was young. As I …
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
If you love dogs, it's hard not to love this book.
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
John Grogan cant train his dog so he writes a comical book about the dog's bad habits.
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
one of the saddest books ive read in my entire life. the whole book the guys wife is picking on the dog, and she dislikes him for doing things that dogs do. they mess up your house, make a huge mess, and dont ever clean up after themselves. and the guy does everything in his power to keep the dog. then the ending, is one of the saddest things ive ever read/heard/seen in my entire life, the movie had a good depiction of how he felt. this book really shows "mans best friend" =)
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
i'm biased because he grew up in the same neighborhood and time period as my mom, so it was really interesting to read about their similar childhoods!
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Tracy Esposito ()
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Member Since: Jun 2, 2010
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Product Description

The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family in the making and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life.

John and Jenny were young and in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy—and their life would never be the same. Marley quickly grew into a barreling, ninety-seven-pound steamroller of a Labrador retriever who crashed through screen doors, flung drool on guests, stole women's undergarments, devoured couches and fine jewelry, and was expelled from obedience school. Yet Marley's heart was pure, and he remained a steadfast model of love and devotion for a growing family through pregnancy, birth, heartbreak, and joy, right to the inevitable goodbye.

About the Author

John Grogan is the author of the #1 adult bestseller Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, which inspired the bestselling middle-grade memoir Marley: A Dog Like No Other. He is also the author of the #1 bestselling picture books Bad Dog, Marley! and A Very Marley Christmas. John lives with his wife and three children and their dogs, Gracie and Woodson, in the Pennsylvania countryside.

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Books, Cafe Libri, Nonfiction, Dogs, Memoirs, Essays, Labrador Retreivers, John Grogan


ISBN-10: 0061687200 (MM pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9780061687204 (MM. pbk.)
Author: John Grogan
Genre: Memoirs, Nonfiction
Publisher: Harper; Rep Mti edition
Date Published: October 28, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages , Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 4.2 x 1.1 inches
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