Friday, January 30, 2009

Annie's Monster
Barbara Corcoran
1990, Atheneum

When an Irish Wolfhound breeder finds that one of her adolescent dogs has a minor but possibly genetic flaw, she gives him to a local girl as a pet. Ian Flanagan of Wild Rose Farm is friendly, enthusiastic and huge. Annie MacDougal is well-intentioned, but the big puppy easily frees himself of her grasp on their first walk together and frightens neighborhood children, the first in a long line of confrontations between Annie's dog and the people of her small Massachusets town. With her father the Episcopal minister, Annie's under great pressure to behave, and Flanagan's behavior threatens all that. To make matters worse, Flanagan discovers a mentally ill homeless woman, whose situation is a direct reproach to Rev. MacDougal's position on charity.

Awkwardly written, with dueling plot points clearly meant to be complimentary (misunderstood dog, misunderstood human) but which compete for sparse resources from a writer who seems intent on making obvious points - it's wrong to fear the mentally ill, big dogs are clumsy. The language is bare, without challenge or beauty.

On a dog-owner's point-of-view, the plot concerning Annie's brave battle to keep her pet rings false. Annie and her family are repeatedly unable/unwilling to control their dog's actions - letting go of the leash, allowing the dog to jump into a neighbor's yard, etc. - and yet are outraged and self-righteous when people complain and rally to have the MacDougals forced to pen the dog.

This is a classic animal story. The villains are all ugly Americans, the loathsome middle-class neighbors. The heroes are the wealthy breeder and the poor/noble Episcopal minster and his family. A moment late in the book, when the breeder threatens to sue the town if it bans Flanagan, sums it up:

They resented Mrs. Meyers - her money, her threat to sue, her power. Annie could feel it all over the room.

The dog story disappoints. Flanagan is seen very vaguely, and Annie's relationship with him is flat, uninvolving and unconvincing. The dog is clearly a vehicle for the wider story of father/daughter, parson/homeless, outsider/town themes.

I've enjoyed other Corcoran books. This one, however, is too busy for it's own good. Too many plots, too much bare-bones writing and far too much blatant preaching.

Other Books (dog)
Sasha, My Friend
Me And You And A Dog Named Blue

Other Books (horse)
A Horse Named Sky

No comments:

Post a Comment