Staff Review – Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Have you ever started reading a book without really knowing what it will be about? I’ve done this a few times, mostly because I enjoyed the author’s previous works and wanted to read more of their titles, but this was a different story. When you read the back cover of “Lily and the Octopus”, or look up the book on Goodreads or other online book sites, there is very little in terms of plot description. After reading the book, I can understand why, and as such, I feel reluctant to give away too much info as well. What I will say is that “Lily and the Octopus” is a story about a man named Ted and his beloved dachshund Lily. Lily has been his fateful companion for roughly 10 years and the love between them is the true heart of the novel.

It’s a bit difficult to review a book without discussing the plot, but the mystery of the plot is what drew me to this book in the first place. The book is described as The Art of Racing in the Rain (which I haven’t read) meets Life of Pi (which I have). Readers of Life of Pi will know that this comparison means that “Lily and the Octopus” must have an element of magical realism to it, which it absolutely does. If you’re into quirky books with a touch of fantasy, this one is for you. Ted and Lily’s life together is full of magical realism – a realistic view of the world with magical elements thrown in. This is apparent from the first page, and once you’re on board with the style, it really is fun to read. Rowley’s addition of magical realism made this pull-on-your-heartstrings book lighter and even humourous at times. Don’t get me wrong though – I ended up sobbing towards the end as I was overcome with emotion for Lily and Ted. The novel distracts you with the quirks and the fantastical, then brings you back down to earth in a heartbreaking way.

Reading the author’s acknowledgements at the end of the book, I discovered this story is (somewhat) based on Rowley’s life! He had an amazing dog named Lily, and also is partners with a man named Byron, who Ted goes on a first date with at the end of the novel. Seeing these comparisons to the author’s life made this story even more heartwarming for me – the tale of Lily and Ted is one of pure love, so knowing it was inspired by a real-life love story made me smile. This story is touching, moving, quirky, and gives all a lesson on love and loss. If you’re looking for something to make you laugh and cry, pick up Steven Rowley’s Lily and the Octopus today!