Marley & Me: The Many Forms Of Unconditional Love (A Memoir #Book Review)

Posted on October 8, 2012

By Neha Bhandarkar:

John Grogan in this semi autobiography, provides an emotional story of a young family making its ways through life with the help of a dog. Now you may think, “I do not like dogs, why should I be reading an entire book about one?”  But whether or not you are a “dog-person”, this book presents you with every jolly reason to owe one! The memories penned down are so personal and heart-felt; at times you can completely forget whether the book has anything to do with Marley, the dog (protagonist). But then he comes zooming along in the progressive chapters, bringing humorous actions with every step.

The book starts with a young couple, John and Jenny, newlyweds in Palm Beach, looking for some new challenge in life. They were deeply in love, with a great house, great careers, and not a care in the world; that is, until they bring Marley home, unaware of the fact that their lives will undergo such an unexpected transformation. As a ninety-seven pound Labrador retriever, Marley’s entry in their lives is a whirlwind of disaster. Crashing through screen doors, destroying carpets, scratching drywall, eating jewellery are all in a day’s work for the pup. Yet through all this, the book points out the unconditional love that Marley has and “expresses” for his family, and the way they love him back. Just as his damaging powers appear endless, his love and loyalty knows no bounds.

John Grogan takes us through some of the craziest of Marley’s adventures. For instance, when Marley is cast in a local film production as the “typical family dog“, we all shy away at what damage this dog can do. Sure enough, after a full day of filming a 15 second clip, the only thing Marley has accomplished is destroying the set and chewing through his strap! The chapter titled “The Audition”, is one where Jenny calls up her husband to tell that Marley is getting a film audition. He finds it hard to believe and keeps asking, “A what?” Marley is described through this sentence- “Apparently, he’s looking for a big, dumb, loopy dog to play the role of the family pet, and Marley caught his eye.” Marley’s totally out-of-control behaviour and the director’s innumerable cuts on the day one of shoot will leave the reader laughing! After the director’s observation of the raw footages, Marley is found to be hysterically hilarious and again fit to play the role in the Feature length movie, The last home run. The family outings, expulsion from the obedience school, tranquilizers prescription from the vet; the book has many such reasons to keep you smiling throughout.

A major part of the book has very little to do with Marley, as it covers all the little joyful things that happen to a newly married young couple who have with them a beautiful life to share. The book is written well and amounts to a journal reading, describing the new couple’s excitement over the first pregnancy, and heartbreak over the subsequent miscarriage. John overcomes deep-rooted family concerns, while Jenny copes with serious depression. While the book is mainly an amusing adventure, it is definitely not without its sober moments. However, these candid and intent pages give Marley & Me the soul it needs to rise above other light-hearted tales.

John Grogan’s narration to describe the human-dog bond with frankness is one of the most touching aspects of this book. As dog lovers, we share intense bonds with these companions of ours. Grogan has captured this beautifully, putting into words what so many of us have felt for our own dogs. At many times while reading this book one can be reduced to tears – sometimes out of sadness or empathy, apart from other times when we just end up laughing very hard.

The blurb of Marley & Me sums it appropriately, “...Yet through the chaos and the hilarity he won hearts and remained a steadfast model of devotion to his family, even when they were at their wits’ end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms”

Heart-warming, funny and informative, Marley & Me is a recommendation for just anybody, adult or young adult but especially for those who are dog lovers and aspiring to be dog owners.