Title: The Dust of 100 Dogs
Author: A. S. King
ISBN: 9780738714264
Pages: 330 pages
Publisher/Date: Flux, c2009.

He stood with his arms and face raised to the night sky. “I curse you with the power of every spirit who ever knew love!” he screamed. “I curse you to one hundred lives as the bitch you are, and hope wild dogs tear your heart into the state you’ve left mine!” He began chanting in a frightful foreign language.
Still brushing the dust from her hair, Emer took aim with her gun and fired. (5)

Fifteen-year-old Emer Morrisey has led a hard life, suffering abuse at the hands of her cowardly uncle after the rest of her family was killed defending their small Irish town from invading armies. So when Emer gets shipped off to Paris to become a wealthy man’s wife, she runs away and ends up on the shores of Tortuga, eventually becoming a blood thirsty pirate who longs for the love of the man she was forced to leave behind. No one is very happy with her, especially the Frenchman she fled from, and upon her death is cursed to live the lives of 100 dogs.
Three hundred years later, she is born into the body of Saffron Adams in 1972 Pennsylvania with her memories intact. Finally reborn a human, Emer is intent on recovering her buried treasure.

If the summary tells you anything, this is a complicated and unique book. By the end of the book, I realized that there’s some duality, with Emer occuping Saffron’s body and Saffron having her own identity. Yes, I probably should have realized it by the shift in narration style between the stories of the past and present. But Saffron’s identity gets buried, probably because Emer is such a forceful character in her own right. Even in the end, Saffron seems more intent in living out Emer’s dreams than her own. This dual nature of being is much more apparent in the Frenchman’s reincarnation, as he seems to have resurfaced in his own way to further persue Emer.

I felt sorry for both Saffron and Emer, as neither one has the most wonderful family life, and upon reflection it’s ironic the similarities between these two girls who seem so different. For instant, both girls are seen as the source of “salvation” for their families, with Saffron receiving top grades and parents urging her to go off to college so she can take care of them in the future. Emer gets sold off in order to also provide financial security for her uncle, however fleeting it might have been. They both stay mute about their ultimate goals in life, suffering consequences once they do vocalize their hopes for the future by being sold off (Emer) and cut off (Saffron).

The graphic descriptions of Emer’s fantasies might detract some readers, but I was surprisingly amused by violent visions of people she dislikes being grotesquely tortured, “popping his fingernails off, one by one, with an awl” or “whipping him with his own severed forearm.” (70-71). If only we had such vivid imaginations, instead of just saying “I’m going to kill her” when the dog chews up our favorite pair of shoes for instance. The presentation might also cause some de ja vu, as the prologue is repeated towards the end of the book as readers finally catch up to Emer’s narration of what happened to her. I don’t mind that as much though, as the second reading has much more meaning now that you’ve got the whole history and story. The line where she says “It’s like two different lives in the same bloody day.” especially stood out to me. (4 and 305)

All in all, I think readers will be left second-guessing their ideas about the book and it’s story, as nothing is really spelled out. Although questions are still rampant by the end, I don’t think a sequel would read the same way, for obvious reasons once you’ve finished the book. I’m left looking for more, if only to better understand the two girls more thoroughly. As I told a coworker of mine, I’m sure there is a niche market for this book, but the psychological nature of some of the characters might hamper some readers.

Advertisements