Growing up, I was not really a “dog person.” It wasn’t until I married Keith and starting living with his dog that I discovered the joys of having a dog. Then, we got Sadie Grace, and I was sold on big dogs. Sadie was the BEST DOG EVER. I still miss her, and I lament that she is gone.
I was, honestly, scared to read Good Boy, Achilles. I mean…it’s a dog story. We all know how the very best dog stories end. We know how they start. We know what happens.
Or do we?
Good Boy, Achilles is the story of a a dog, yes, and it is the story of the boy who loves the dog. However, it is told in a very unique way. We hear the perspective of the dog, Achilles, the boy, Jeremy, the dog’s mom, and the boy’s mom. We get to see what the dogs are thinking and feeling, as well as the humans in the story.
Jeremy’s parents own Ginger, who has had puppies at the outset of the book. Jeremy desperately wants to keep Achilles (Thunder, as Ginger names him), but his parents are set on selling him. Achilles believes he belongs to Jeremy, as well, and doesn’t understand why his mother insists God might have different plans for him.
What is most interesting about this story is the idea that the dogs relate to the Father (God) in a way that is similar, yet different, to the way humans do. I know that as Protestant Christians, we do not believe that animals have souls. Well, I do not believe that anyway.
I do not believe an animal can be saved. I do not believe that God endowed animals with any kind of “special” “in His image-ness” like He did humans (see Genesis chapter one). But I do believe certain species of animals are more capable of…thought? reasoning? compassion? than other species. This is why we have dogs and cats as pets, not squirrels and crickets.
Back to the story…
In the story, Ginger (mama dog) teacher her puppies that God has created them for a special purpose. Throughout the book, each puppy discovers his or her purpose. Achilles thinks he has one purpose, but then it appears he actually has another.
Alongside this story is the story of Jeremy. Jeremy is learning to be obedient and respectful to his parents (a story line I very much appreciated as a parent). Growing up to be respectful, polite, obedient – these are challenging things, and the reader gets an insider view to Jeremy’s thought process. He, too, thinks he has one purpose, and then he discovers he has another.
These apparent purposes cross in a very suspenseful few chapters toward the end of the book that found me literally unable to stop reading one afternoon. I appreciate a book so well-written that when I think one thing is going to happen I am pleasantly surprised for multiple reasons when the story goes in a different direction.
(And no, I am not going to spoil the ending! Go buy the book!)
This would be a great book for a young man or woman to read with his parents, but you could safely give this to your pre-teen or teenager to read independently. There is suspenseful action, and while Jeremy does make some poor choices (he runs away from home at one point), he repents and comes back to his parents. There is nothing untoward in the book at all.
Theologically, I am unsure I would attribute dogs as having a solid belief in God. I will be totally honest, though, and insert right here that I always tell our son that Sadie Grace is in heaven! But, if you present it as a Charlotte’s Web type story, I see no harm in the story. There is nothing heretical, for sure. Everything that is presented about God is theologically solid, even if it does come from a dog’s perspective.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book! As we do four Christmas gifts, and one is “something to read,” this would be an excellent choice for this category. You can purchase Good Boy, Achilles from Amazon (not an affiliate link) or straight from the publisher.
I was gifted this book by the author in exchanged for this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are solely mine, and were not influenced by the gift. I am grateful that Mr. Ellis and his team contacted me, and I look forward to sharing this book with our son (when he is a little bit better able to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to animal stories!).