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What It Means to Be an Underdog

Guest Post by Gabrielle Thurman.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung is the harrowing tale of a young boy raised by wild dogs. Based on a true story, the novel follows Romochka, a four-year-old boy abandoned by his family, as he attempts to survive the Russian winters in the aftermath of perestroika. At its heart, this book is a story about what it means to be an underdog, both literally and metaphorically.

Every scene in this book had me gritting my teeth. I laughed. I cried. I walked away from it in horror and disgust, only to return to it again and again. It’s one of those books that even after you finish reading it, you still think about it. I can’t look at dogs the same way I used to. Hornung does a fantastic job of examining what it means to be a “person.”

The book isn’t perfect. There are parts where the plot gets a bit fuzzy and convenient. She stretched my suspension of disbelief a tad bit too far in places. Overall, though, this is one of my new favorites, and I’ll definitely be recommending it to others. If you love books about  dogs, survival, Russia, humanity, violence, family, and hope, then this book is for you.

Dog Boy by Eva Hornung. Viking, March 2010.

Reviewer bio: Gabrielle Thurman is a creative writer, professional editor, queer woman, native Arkansan, and aspiring novelist. Her creative nonfiction can be found in The Elephant Ladder and The Vortex Magazine of Literature and Fine Art.


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