This beautiful hardback copy of The Boy and the Dog (Scribner 2022) by famed Japanese author Seishu Hase, translated by Alison Watts, won the prestigious Naoki Prize. A simple story of a dog named Tamon who, after the tragic tsunami, travels the length of Japan for five years seeking refuge. Several people house him along the way in six very different circumstances but he yearns to continue south. Is he trying to return home? Or is there some other force driving him?
Tamon, a crossbreed, is intelligent, loyal and fiercely protective. He touches the lives of everyone he meets. He is ‘a gift to everyone who welcomes him into their life’. With each owner, it appears Tamon arrives at the right time, for a particular purpose. As the novel progresses, this pattern emerges. One of the characters is Hikaru, a boy who has not spoken since the trauma of the tsunami swallowed his house and his town when he was only three years old, five years earlier. His parents have done all they can but nothing seems to help or reach their child.
The heartwarming account of how Tamon rescues, soothes, accompanies or saves different people in various ways is poignant and moving, especially the section where he and Hikaru connect.
From the opening pages, when a man finds the stray dog outside a convenience store, to the beautiful closing chapters, this story will make you laugh and cry. If you are a dog lover, you will rejoice in the way the story demonstrates that dogs understand ‘the human heart and (are) attuned to it in a way that no other creature (is)’. If you don’t have a dog, this book will make you want to go immediately to the nearest animal shelter and find your soul mate.
Beautiful simple language (although a couple of the translations into Americanisms were a bit jarring), complex characters and a lovely structure that flows from one section to the next, like a collection of linked short stories, connected by Tamon and his quest.