Good Boy, the latest memoir from Jennifer Finney Boylan, makes me want to go adopt a dog. And it also makes me glad I don’t have one. She tells a plethora of funny and poignant stories about dog ownership. Alternately, she tells about dogs who despise their owners and aren’t afraid to show it. Along the way, Boylan shares details about her own life, as well as her family and friends over the years. In her sixty-plus years, she’s had a wide variety of experiences. Some are quite ordinary, and others are certainly unique. I inhaled this like a dog who tips over the treat jar in an empty house.
As one of the first trans women to publish a bestselling book, Boylan has already bared a lot of her soul. This book is as much about those “good” dogs, as it is about whether Boylan is the boy / man people expect. And of course, she is not.
A deft storyteller, Boylan makes me want to hear more. But her approach isn’t titillation. It’s details of a life both big and small. Her story is big in the sense of offering her truths. And small in the details of moments, like a short but sweet hug from a loved one.
If you think dogs unfailingly give their owners unconditional love, Boylan begs to differ. Conversely, if your families and good friends are conditional in their love, Boylan reminds you that they may not be. But this is not an angry book. On the contrary, it’s gentle and kind.
Good Boy came into my life on a fortuitous day. As it turned out, I discussed aspects of the trans journey (from my cis-gendered perspective) with my 81-year-old aunt. One of her beloved grandchildren has just come out as trans. And while she’s generally accepting, the journey has just begun for her. I’ll send this book off to my aunt, since Boylan explains things both delicately and clearly. I think the stories in Good Boy will help her understand this grandchild and their feelings. And that’s a priceless gift Boylan has given the world.
I wish I could post some quotes from Boylan in this review. But since I’ve read an advanced copy, some text may change. What they’d illustrate is Boylan’s skill at her craft. She is a master of the story that just pulls you gently along, then gives you a slap of insight towards the end.
If you like heartwarming family stories, with a combination of belly laughs and sweetness, this is a book for you. Its publication date is late April, 2020.
Many thanks to Celadon Books and Jennifer Finney Boylan for the opportunity to read an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.