A Dog’s Purpose – by Bruce Cameron

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In three words: sentimental, whimsical, playful

The book’s cover advertises a light-hearted tone – just look at that smiley retriever. But don’t be fooled. A la Game of Thrones, the main character (a puppy, no less) gets killed off right when you’ve developed a rapport. The puppy – born in the wild – is placed in a pound, but gets injured and is deemed unadoptable. Next comes euthanasia. Fortunately, in the next chapter, we find that our protagonist has been reincarnated into Bailey, a golden retriever puppy. He lives with a family, forming a special bond with the boy, Ethan. Bailey weathers many storms with Ethan – his parents’ divorce, a near death experience, and shattered dreams. When Bailey passes away, he is reincarnated as a search and rescue German shepherd named Ellie. After living a long life, Ellie dies and is born again as Buddy. Unfortunately, Buddy isn’t quite sure what to do in his next life. But he soon finds his purpose when he and Ethan (now an old man) reconnect. When Ethan dies, Buddy finally finds a sense of fulfillment in being by his side.

If you want more, move on the to sequel, A Dog’s Journey. In three words, this book is serious, uplifting, charming

If the movie installment of A Dog’s Purpose was rated PG, the sequel, A Dog’s Journey, would be PG-13. It still has the charm of first-person dog narration, but the themes are more adult. Buddy once again is reincarnated. But instead of being the guardian of Ethan, he watches over the CJ, Ethan’s step-granddaughter. The issues that CJ deals with are more adult in nature, compared to Ethan. She struggles with bulimia, has a dysfunctional relationship with her mother, and troubled romances. Through it all though, Buddy is there for her.