Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley



Mostly I want to talk about how it could be possible that I’ve never seen it before. How I could be responsible for every aspect of her daily life and well-being- food, water, exercise, toys, chews, inside, outside, medication, elimination, entertainment, snuggling, affection, love- and not notice that one side of her head sports an octopus, alarmingly increasing it in size.

How to buy it: QBD the bookshop, paperback, $29.99

When can I get my hands on it: Now!

What am I in for: Contemporary fiction, animals, heartbreak, grieving

 This is a story about a man and his dog, the closeness we have with our pets, and the certainty that we will outlive them. This is a story about grieving and realising how much you love someone when you know that the clock is ticking.

The first thing I noticed was how Rowley wrote so eloquently. I marked so many beautiful passages out of the book to share in the article, and it was difficult to only share just these few. This book spoke to me so profoundly as I think it can speak to anybody that has or currently owns a pet that is as much a family member as any human.

As Ted realises that Lily has only a certain amount of time left with him, we are taken through moments of their life together, from when Lily was a puppy and they first started to bond…

So excited by the existence of each new thing encountered that she had to sing her enthusiasm with sharp staccato notes: LOOK! AT! THIS! IT! IS! THE! MOST! AMAZING! THING! I’VE! EVER! SEEN!

 …to the end when Lily is slowly getting more ill and the frustration

 How difficult it was on those nights to fall asleep, to stay asleep, frustrated that I might have to take her to the yard in the darkness of predawn. So many arguments this caused between us. I always thought I knew better when it came to her needing to pee, but until this night she had never once actually wet the bed. And now that she has, we just lie there in the accident and the minutes on the clock keep changing and the love I have for her keeps growing and we both keep drawing breath-

As we reminisce with Ted we understand that Lily has been Ted’s constant companion throughout all the changes in his life over their 12 years together; how routine with Lily kept him comforted despite facing job changes, relationship breakups and trying to find the motivation to go out on dates again. Ted consistently calls the tumour an octopus, until the very end when he finally acknowledges his grief and admits that it is a tumour.

 Despite Lily’s own quiet struggle with the tumour, she still is there for Ted to the very end:

 I can sit with her quietly, our bodies touching just enough to generate warmth, to share the vibrating energy of all living things until our breathing slows and fall into the parallel rhythm it always does when we have all quietest sits –

 This book was a real tear-jerker and a must-read. For Rowley’s first novel, this was a brilliantly written book and I am looking forward to his future work.

And now excuse me while I go and cuddle my own furry friend- look at this face!


Amy xx




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