three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
By: 
Pam Houston
user_rating: 
0

A-SightHoundPlaywright Rae Rutherford believes she’s nursing her cancer-stricken Irish Wolfhound, Dante, back to health. Through a feat of anthropomorphism, we discover that it’s actually the three-legged Dante who, while narrating, is looking out for "his human." Rae’s had a hard life: abusive parents, a string of failed romances, and now a dog with a terminal illness. Yet it is Dante, along with a cast of friends, coworkers, and exes, who pushes her to maintain her faith in love and, more importantly, not to give up on life.
W. W. Norton. 342 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0393058174

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s a poignant and joyous novel, a tear-jerker certain to appeal to those of us who suspect, foolishly or intuitively, that our pets’ emotions are tightly bound to our own. Without excess sentimentality, Houston offers proof that fickle humans are capable of learning a lesson or two in devotion, even if the teacher has four legs and bad breath." Connie Ogle

Tacoma News Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Dead dog stories simply howl with clichés and succumb under the weight of maudlin grieving and sentimental claptrap. Most dog-centered stories should be put to sleep—lest the reader be the one nodding off. Sight Hound is not like that." Sam McManis

Portland Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"This first novel is stronger stuff than earlier works, but built of the same timber. … Here she broadens her view of the relationship landscape and brings into focus some perfect moments of love given and realized."
Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

San Diego Union Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"If the book sounds precious and self-indulgent, it is, a little. And I’m not convinced that dogs practice ‘nonattachment.’ But as if on a mission from God, Pam Houston repeatedly reminds her readers of life’s multiple teachers, the possibility of healing and a word she uses often: ‘hope.’" Wendy L. Smith

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Although these characters are differentiated by circumstance, their voices have an unfortunate sameness. And breaking the narrative into so many chunks gives the novel an irritating choppiness and distance. Would that Houston had let Rae—or Dante—tell the story." Jane Ciabattari

Charlotte Observer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is full of ruminations on hope, faith and the future, including pithy bits of wisdom from Rae’s therapist, her old boyfriends, and Buddhist monks. Dante himself, in his chapters, quotes Buddha and Lao-Tzu." Lee Rhodes

Critical Summary

Houston has covered this terrain before in her best-selling story collections (Cowboys Are My Weakness; Waltzing the Cat) and a collection of non-fiction, A Little More About Me. In her first novel, she expands the scope of her storytelling without giving up the outdoor settings and failed romances. The debate over her use of multiple narrators is evenly split: some critics think the collection of voices (12 by one count) provides perspective; others find it unnecessarily complicated. Most agree that while human voices are weaker, Houston sure can make a dog talk. In fact, many critics think the wolfhound is the strongest narrator in the book. While Sight Hound is a fine novel, it may not entice like the author’s shorter fiction.