Title: DOG BOY
Author: EVA HORNUNG
MELBOURNE, TEXT PUBLISHING, 2009
This novel is an engrossing story of a young boy who becomes a member of a family of dogs. The setting is Moscow, and the child is abandoned by the adults in his life in a derelict block of flats. The four year old boy stays inside the shambles of rooms which is his home for a week, but once he has eaten everything he can find, he wanders into the icy streets and eventually follows a dog who is the matriarch of a family of wild dogs.
The story that follows is enthralling, the dog matriarch takes the little boy into her pack and teaches him to hunt and survive as a member of her family. The author’s descriptions of the run-down neighbourhoods around Moscow is vivid and lyrical.
The relationship that the boy establishes with his ‘dog mother and his brothers and sisters’ is remarkably conveyed through the boy’s eyes. The family of dogs are described as loyal, brave and loving towards each other, the author seems to be comparing the boys human family, described as abusive and neglectful, to the little boys adopted family of dogs, and the humans emerge in an unflattering light. The detailed descriptions of the dog family’s lives, which is filled with the danger of hunting and scavenging and the discipline required for the family to survive and stay together is an astonishing act of imaginative writing.
The author has obviously done research on this subject, as there is documented cases of young children being adopted by dog packs. The Australian author has written a compelling story of astonishing courage and resilience, the resolution to the little boys dilemma is written masterfully. The ending is very moving, but utterly satisfying.