Title: The Dog in the Hollow
Author: Will Lowrey
Genre: Literary Fiction
Clarence Crandall lives a solitary life of lonely contemplation in a small cabin buried in the depths of the forest. When he finds a gravely injured dog named Goose outside his door, the pair forge an instinctive bond.
When Clarence realizes Goose’s story, he knows he has to act. He returns to Mayfield, the town he was forced to leave, to summon help but when the Sheriff refuses, Clarence has no choice but to take matters into his own hands.
Following a brief paragraph that wonderfully conjures the atmospheric mountain hollow setting in the late afternoon, Lowrey takes the reader straight into brutal territory as they meet Goose and his canine companions.
Through Goose’s perspective, the reader is introduced to their lives of unremitting cruelty at the hands of “the Man,” Virgil Pickens. Lowrey takes time to steadily develop the individual personalities of the dogs in the first few chapters while, contrastingly, stripping Virgil of any meaningful identity.
Using Goose’s reflections, Lowrey deftly exposes enough information for the reader to establish exactly what Virgil is up to, expertly building a sickening sense of foreboding that culminates in a truly heart-breaking scene involving Goose.
Voicing animals convincingly for adult fiction is no easy feat. Lowrey has tackled this effectively. Goose is undoubtedly a dog who interprets the world around him in plain, straightforward terms with a compelling sense of inquisitiveness and understanding.
However, when Clarence enters the novel, Lowrey skillfully ensures that Goose’s matter-of-fact, intelligent observations convey not only a healthy dose of foreshadowing but through the nuances of the man’s expressions and movements gently disclose the welter of emotional vulnerability suppressed within him.
Consequently, the portrayal of Clarence and his environment using Goose’s focused viewpoint is curiously poignant and flickering with intrigue for the reader. Clarence’s connection with the dog is, to an almost primal degree, immediate and profound, without ever becoming mawkish.
During this section of the novel, the narrative texture takes on the quality of a deconstructed fable, emphasized by the soft spellbinding beauty and sensory, almost otherworldly nature of Lowrey’s descriptive imagery as he illustrates the forest.
Further, although Goose does not speak directly, his telepathic exchanges with Fenton, the somewhat mystical coyote, and the moral dilemma that Goose’s arrival poses to Clarence are gently reminiscent of the sub-genre without overt sermonizing.
When the pair travel to small-town Mayfield, Clarence’s palpable sense of dread is evident. The reader is gifted a few hints as to why Clarence has been ostracized from the town and Lowrey cleverly switches perspective to him during the majority of their time there, enabling the reader to draw further conclusions, albeit slightly ambiguously.
Although Clarence and Goose’s time in Mayfield is brief, the town’s characters and mood are portrayed with a sharp brush of authenticity that avoids stereotyping. Indeed, it may have benefitted the reader to have lingered longer in Mayfield, if only to have Lowrey explore the damaged dynamic between Clarence and Loretta a touch further.
Occasionally the pace is possibly too slow and, conversely, it could be reasoned the conclusion is too swift, leaving a couple of trailing ends. Technically, the novel is flawlessly edited and constructed with clever, near-imperceptible tweaks in literary technique and tone that drive and refine the tale as it unfolds.
The Dog in the Hollow is a beautifully profound little novel written with lucidity and poise that deserves to be a classic. Lowrey’s prose is unpretentious yet exquisite and never loses sight of a compact but deeply moving story, which is affecting, inspiring, and impossible to put down.
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