Book Pairing of the Week: Lily and the Octopus

Happy Monday! And Happy Independence Day! This post is the very first of the Book Pairing of the Week series, which I’ll try to have out every Monday. Writing it down publically makes it a real responsibility for me. So here it goes.

A few weeks ago, Steven Rowley visited the bookstore near my apartment for a reading and a signing of Lily and the Octopus. I missed the reading, unfortunately, but I did swing by the next day to grab an autographed copy. It was on my to-read list, but I figured that I’d be too busy doing my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge to pick it up until January. But I finished City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg earlier than I anticipated (I forget sometimes how fast I can power through a 900-page novel just so I can feel I’m making progress), and I didn’t have any other library books out. So I picked up Lily and the Octopus, feeling the allure of its brevity. I finished it the next day, with much crying. So much crying.


It’s difficult to describe exactly how Rowley constructs such a beautiful little novel, other than to say that he combines a sort of magical realism with the classic “boy and his dog” narrative, except in this case the boy is a 42-year-old gay man with anxiety problems, and instead of going hunting with his beloved pooch, he plays Monopoly and talks about boys with her. As I followed Ted and Lily’s epic battle against the evil octopus, I too both fell in love with Lily’s magical story and cheered Ted on through his search for love and his battle against his own brain. As Lily would say, THIS! BOOK! IS! SO! GOOD! GO! READ! IT! NOW!

But you will cry. And that’s where my snack pairing comes in. Nothing goes better with Lily and the Octopus than double-chocolate chunk cookies. Ted gets insatiable cravings for cookies whenever he goes to therapy, and if the descriptions of the crumbs and the bakery bag aren’t enough to send you running to the cookie store near you, the heart-wrenching finale will. As I cried into my Kleenex, I thanked goodness that I at least had the taste of chocolate in my mouth, with the gooey, sinful texture reminiscent of the pure joy that dogs have. If you think it’s sacrilege to eat chocolate while reading a book about a dog, I suggest snickerdoodles. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of my snack this week. I ate them all.

So there you have it. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley with double-chocolate cookies. But only if you’re in the mood for a lot of feels.


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