Sunday, June 15, 2008

Church of the Dog-Kaya McLaren

Church of the Dog
Kaya McLaren
Penguin, May 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780143113423

In rural Northeast Oregon, Edith and Earl McRae have been married for decades, but over time they have drifted apart though they live together on their farm. Edith reflects back that the somewhat reticent Earl may have loved her, but probably never thought of her as a friend. However while shaving seventy-nine years old Earl nicks his neck; he places toilet paper on the cut only to discover a cyst just like his late dog Blue had. He assumes it is cancer.

Assuming the cyst is a warning sign that he will soon meet his maker, he is determined to do two things before he dies; he needs to regain what he believes he let slide; his ties to his wife and his estranged grandson Daniel, an Alaskan fisherman running away from home since his parents died years ago. Earl campaigns in person with Edith and by letter asking Daniel to come home to his grandpa’s “land of success and failure”. Mara O’Shaugnessy arrives in town as the new art teacher. She buys a pet, Harvey the Hog. Tim Grennan allows Mara and Harvey to reside on his family’s ranch next door to the McRae farm Soon Mara’s mischief brings happiness and chaos to all she meets especially her neighbors the McRaes. When Daniel returns, he is worried about his grandpa dying, but instead he finds his grandparents happy; their catalyst Mara; but even she with her whimsy upbeat demeanor fears she will never reach the soul of the stoic sad fisherman.

This engaging inspirational relationship drama is an interesting tale that rotates points of view between Mara, Edith, Earl and Daniel. Thus the story line is obviously character driven starting with Mara who works her optimistic magic bringing joy to all she meets, especially the elderly McRae couple. Although somewhat stereotyped with its New Age wisdom, Kaya McLaren provides an inspiring story that says fills the cup up if you feel it is half empty.

Harriet Klausner

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