There is an octopus lying with its tentacles spreading languidly on Lily’s head. Its eyes are defiant, they’re staring at me. When did it come? How did I not see it before now?
Jenny, my therapist asks me what happens with my 12 year old dachshund. I tell her, there is an octopus on her head, gripping her tight as if like it’s saying that now Lily is his. His? Is the octopus male? How do I know it’s he? Anyway, Jenny asks again, what is on her head? I tell her, octopus. She is just so dumb sometimes. Like the thing I just did, I need to give her the same answer twice before she gets it. Is she that dumb? Or, is she doubting me that there’s an octopus?
I also tell Trent the same thing I’ve told Jenny. There’s an octopus on Lily’s head. Then Trent asks me what I’m going to do about it. I then ask the question to myself, am I taking her to the vet?
Grieving is a quiet course, which one usually takes on alone. Similar to how Joan Didion describes the world muting itself after her husband’s passing, in Lily and the Octopus, Ed is narrating what’s really going on in his unstable mind that is struggling very hard to stand the looming death of his best friend. However, unlike Joan who enters her silent hurt after the death, Ed starts his grieving process early. The moment he sees the octopus, he begins his process of trying to let go. Dogs have much shorter lives than humans, thus deep down Ed understands that expecting Lily to make it is a wishful thinking. This makes the route of losing a pet a bit different from losing a family member, but this doesn’t mean that the process is any less hard.
Even with their short life-span, we have a renowned story telling about a dog that mourns for the loss of his human bestfriend. The movie is titled the same as the name of the mutt, Hachiko. If you’ve watched the Japanese version, you’d have found Lily and the Octopus much less dramatic of a story. Hachiko is a heroic dog that does heroic things like endlessly waiting for his bestfriend who’s never going to return. But Lily is just like any other dog. Many of Ed’s memories with her, look just like any of our own memories with our pets. Walking around the block, playing fetch using a special ball, snuggling in our bed, and spending idle time together at home. You can say the book is more relatable if you will, but you can also see it as more bland since throughout the story, there’s really no dramatic spike that punches you right in your gut.
I think, Lily and the Octopus is the kind of book which is either for you or not for you. Either you love it or you hate it. If you can’t commiserate with Ed’s cluttered mind, you’ll find the story hard to enjoy. But if you’re the kind of person who’s going to cry when your beautiful fur-baby marries a less pretty furry friend, then this book is going to speak to your soul.