The Boy and the Dog by Seishu Hase
A remarkable dog with eerily sentient powers enters and passes through the lives of seven people struggling to heal from life-changing natural disasters. It is sweet but strong, gritty but tender. A wonderful gift.
This strange little novel, deftly translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts is a melancholy but heartwarming tale of an eerily sentient canine who blesses the life of each person he encounters during a five-year trek to find once again the boy he lost in a great earthquake and tsunami. As each human who finds Tamon discovers, he is aware in an almost disturbing fashion of the emotions, needs and even fates to which his they are destined. He helps them deal with the dangerous circumstances they encounter, the deeply troubling sins they are escaping, the sorrowful vicissitudes of life thrust upon them by the world.
In oftentimes gritty detail, the difficulties of finding food and shelter in the wake of a natural disaster that has destroyed homes, businesses and lives the author depicts a nation striving to heal from both physical and psychic wounds. Pressed into desperate action, each one finds their way smoothed by this otherworldly animal who possesses uncanny knowledge of the way humans act and what they most need. Tamon seems to be at once a guardian angel and a comforting companion who at all times has the back of the person he’s with. His eyes reflect intelligence and compassion that outstrips what is typically expected of what he is not: a mere pet. As Tamon moves from one needy individual to another, he comes closer and closer to his goal; to find the boy he lost, the home he misses and his true place in the world. He never shirks his role as a helper and guide but his face is always turned to the South and West, where his pack is to be found and where he will always go when his work is done.
The emotional impact of this book is remarkable. Eschewing maudlin sentimentality but embracing a sweetness that is reassuring the author lays before us a picture of Japan in the throes of rebuilding and people with the same goal. This reader recommends it highly to anyone who loves animals, but it goes far beyond that simple appeal. I would say that it could easily be given as a thoughtful and loving gift to any lover of books and reading.