I know what you’re thinking -- with school around the corner who has time to read a book purely for fun? While it might be difficult to read through a 700-page book of "Harry Potter," there’s always time to get one more book in during syllabus week.
As I was walking through Barnes & Noble, the book cover with the featured red dachshund immediately caught my eye. Little did I know I was about to discover my new favorite book.
"Lily and the Octopus" by Steven Rowley is about 12-year-old Lily, a red dachshund, who is best friends with her owner, Ted. Ted is single and besides Lily, only has a handful of other friends. Every Thursday they sit on the couch and talk about which boys they think are the cutest; they have pizza nights, game nights and essentially do almost everything together. On one particular Thursday, Ted notices something that seems to be sitting on Lily’s head. Ted cannot even bear to think the name of what is on Lily, so he simply refers to it as an octopus throughout the book.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is that Lily’s dialogue is included, as well. Dachshunds are incredibly spunky creatures, and Ted's interpretation of Lily's humor and personality help offset the heart wrenching moments.
Through a series of daydreams, flashbacks and current events in the lives of Ted and Lily, the reader gets to see how special their relationship is. From the moment Ted chose Lily to all of their adventures up to this point, the bond between Lily and Ted grows more and more special. It becomes apparent how much Ted needs Lily, and how she has gotten him through the toughest moments of his life. Flashbacks to Ted’s last relationship of cheating and lying helps the reader understand exactly why Ted has become so close to Lily; she was the only one he could trust during times of his life when he felt like he had no one. Ted has his own way of coming to terms with Lily’s eventual fate (the octopus symbolizes a tumor) and grows immensely as a person. He begins to understand how important it is to live in the moment and not to spend time worrying about the future, because, as he puts it, “…the future is unpredictable.”
One night, when the octopus is almost done growing, Ted wakes up in his bed shaking. He wakes up in a panic and realizes that Lily is having a seizure. He holds her, cries and fervently apologizes for all of the times he was mean to her, scolded her and didn’t give her what she wanted. It is at this point where he begins to comprehend how much of a toll this octopus is taking on Lily and that he is going to have to prepare himself to say goodbye. Whether it be a dog or a person, we all have a Lily in our lives that we cannot imagine having to watch them suffer and ultimately say goodbye.
"Lily and the Octopus" is a beautiful book not only about friendship but finding yourself amid suffering and heartbreak. Ted has used Lily as an excuse for so many years to stay at home and shield himself from the outside world, but with the final support of Lily, he faces his fears and reintroduces himself to the life outside of his home. He mends his relationship with his mother and reaches out to friends he hasn’t seen in years. And though Lily cannot talk, he would have never been able to do it without her.