Mara O’Shaunnessy, ever-so-slightly magical, is a free spirit who sees people’s auras, heals through touch and communicates with her grandmother nightly in her dreams. So when her mundane fiancée charges her $10.00 for a ride to the hospital, Mara breaks their engagement, packs up and moves to rural Oregon where she accepts a position teaching art. Soon after her arrival in town, Mara buys a hog at a livestock auction to save it from slaughter but now needs a place to live that takes pigs. Town residents direct her to Edith and Earl McRae who may be willing to offer both her and the hog lodging in exchange for work on their farm.
Edith and Earl have been married for fifty years but sadness still clings to them like a cloud. They lost their only child in a tragic car accident many years earlier and their grandson Daniel left the farm as early as possible to spend his days fishing in the arctic. The arrival of Mara on the farm precipitates many changes and as Earl faces an ending, Mara helps the family find joy in the here and now.
Church of the Dog, Kaya McLaren debut novel, is an intensely personal novel. Told alternately from the points of view of Mara, Edith, Earl, and Daniel, Church of the Dog feels as though you’re reading personal diaries and this viewpoint provides intriguing insights into each character’s thoughts, emotions and motivations. In some novels, varying narrators results in a confusing and disjointed read; however, McLaren has engendered her characters with strong, distinctive voices that lead her readers along her chosen path.
Readers will respond to McLaren’s novel in one of two ways: either becoming deeply invested in each of the characters and the spiritual questions McLaren raises; or by thinking it’s all too flaky and treacly, quickly giving up. Readers who connect with Church of the Dog will find a quiet, inspirational meditation on the nature of love and friendship.
Originally published in 2000 by a now defunct press, this edition of Church of the Dog was revised by author and reprinted by Penguin Books.
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 2008
Author's Website: kayamclaren.com
tags: books fiction magical realism Kara McLaren