Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog is a New York Times bestselling autobiographical book by journalist John Grogan, published in 2005, about the thirteen years he and his family spent with their yellow Labrador Retriever, Marley. The dog is poorly behaved and destructive, and the book covers the issues this causes in the family as they learn to accept him in addition to their grief following Marley’s death. It has subsequently been adapted by the author in three separate books, as well as separately into a comedy-drama film released in 2008.
Mr. Grogan knew the workings of Marley’s mind. He makes that abundantly clear in Marley and Me, a very funny valentine to all those four-legged “big, dopey, playful galumphs that seemed to love life with a passion not often seen in this world.” It’s a book with intense but narrow appeal, strictly limited to anyone who has ever had, known or wanted a dog.
Grogan, an accomplished and skillful writer, goes on to tell the story of the following thirteen years of his life, showing the centrality of Marley in the lives of the growing family. The story is, on the whole, quite clean, though there is the occasional expletive worked into the text – this is a story that is more appropriate for adults than children. More than being only the story of a dog, this is the story of a family and the crazy pet that they all loved (most of the time). Marley was a part of the family, constantly challenging the love and patience (and pocketbooks) of his owners. He shared in the joys and pains of the family, even to the point of comforting Jenny in the aftermath of a heartbreaking miscarriage.
Marley & Me isn’t the type of book that will change a life. But it will warm a heart and provide more than a few good laughs. Those readers who own dogs, and Labs, in particular, will probably nod their heads knowingly more than a few times. It is a tale of nearly infinite love and patience. It is the story of a man who loves his animal far more than I ever could. And I guess that is an admirable thing.