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Sight Hound Paperback – Dec 27 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; Reprint edition (Dec 27 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327396
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327397
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,214,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Postfeminist toughness and post-hippie sentiment are the alternating currents of this wry, tender novel by Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness; Waltzing the Cat; etc.) about a Colorado playwright and her beloved Irish wolfhound. Rae hasn't had much luck with men, but her love for her dog Dante is pure and uncomplicated. When he is diagnosed with cancer, she puts all of her energies into prolonging his life, volunteering him for experimental surgery. The ups and downs of the three years he spends in remission are narrated from the perspective of the motley friends who float in Rae's out-sized orbit. Chief among these is Howard, the adorably histrionic actor whose love is Rae's main consolation for the looming loss of Dante; there's also Darlene, Rae's tough-as-nails housekeeper, who keeps things running at the ranch while Rae's at her Denver apartment or traveling to exotic places. Then there's restless, jaded Jonathan, Rae's fellow playwright and best friend; Jodi, the young bride of a surrealist painter, who moves to Colorado and finds a soul mate in Rae; Dr. Evans, the driven vet who labors to save Dante; and Brooklyn Underhill, Dr. Evans's idealistic young ex-soldier assistant. And of course, Dante has his own say, as does Rae's rambunctious second dog, Rose, and Darlene's cat, Stanley. Houston isn't afraid to venture into boggy terrain—readers who squirm at the notion that dogs have human "moms" and "souls as deep and authentic as anything in creation" will resist being carried along at first—but the novel's humor and irony are bracing, and different voices provide welcome contrasts in tone. Houston's gift for capturing the dynamic of unorthodox webs of relationships is on pleasing display in this gruffly warmhearted novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Houston draws readers in to experience the intimate bonds among her characters, not only through her protagonist's ups and downs with her friends, but even more through her special relationship with her Irish wolfhound, Dante. On the one hand a fiercely independent playwright who travels the world, Rae is also a woman beset by insecurities and who has not had the greatest success with her "people" relationships. Her love for Dante has been her anchor during rockier times, and when the dog is diagnosed with bone cancer, Rae begins a journey to realize that truly living means not hiding from pain, but savoring the sweetness in spite of loss. The story is told not only through Rae's own eyes, but also through the eyes of Dante and a diverse cast of characters, including Rae's prickly housekeeper, her dark and brooding best friend, and the doctor who treats her pet. Whether from the perspective of a human or an animal, the tone is witty and warm. Houston's ability to reveal the flaws in each of her characters invites readers to know them on a more personal level. Fans of the author's short-story collections and new readers alike are in for a treat with Houston's first novel.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I had to read a Pam Houston book for my book club, and ended up choosing this one with just one weekend left to read it. I just flew through this novel. I really enjoy books that shift points of view of the narrator. This one included about 10 people 2 dogs and a cat. I read it in just hours and cried at the end. I totally recommend this book for dog lovers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars 62 reviews
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A poignant love story Feb. 1 2005
By Luan Gaines - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Animals bring out the best in most people, fostering a capacity for affection and tenderness that might otherwise remain inaccessible. Such is the case with Dante, an Irish wolfhound. When Dante loses a leg to cancer, he exhibits an almost Ghandi-like tolerance for pain, inordinately sensitive to the emotional needs of his owner, Rae. Dante's calm acceptance of his fate is critical, for he has much work to do with his human. While Rae covertly watches her pet, eyes darkened by the sadness of his imminent suffering, Dante gets along splendidly on his three remaining legs.

Rae has known love before, each time believing this man is the one, but all leave eventually. In every instance, Dante is there to soothe his human, to comfort her and fill the empty spaces, his soulful eyes speaking volumes. Rae has enjoyed many friendships over the years, a decent income from work she loves and a ranch in one of the most beautiful spots in Denver, Colorado, God's country, where she can withdraw from the world when necessary to frolic with her animals and enjoy life on the land. Rae has pursued a career as a playwright because she is fascinated by the way people fail to listen to one another, including herself, the way most follow their own agendas: "History is a starfish that grows an extra arm no matter how many times the original limb is severed."

As the story evolves, each new chapter is written in the first-person voice of those who know Rae, lovers, confidants and friends who offer differing perspectives into the mind of an ambitious, sensitive and talented woman, her history complicated by fears and personal failings, the comfort of Eastern religions and an innate willingness to accept life`s challenges with her best friend, the noble Dante, at her side.

It is Dante's task to help Rae bridge a paralyzing fear of his impending death, to accept love in all its forms and live each day in gratitude for the bounty she enjoys. Quite a task. But if any dog is up to it, Dante can pull off this assignment. Through the passage of time and natural disasters, like the wildfires that raged through Colorado threatening to decimate the landscape, the devastation of 9/11 and life's inevitable ups and downs, Rae and her eclectic assortment of friends and pets move from one year to the next, all watching Dante, waiting for the inevitable. Yet, on the ranch, everything speaks to nature's cycles, birth, death, rebirth. It is a land of many lessons and perhaps why Rae is so at home in this country.

This is a love story, after all. The love of a woman for her dog, Dante, and that dog for his owner, a love that sustains them through a series of painful operations, that transcends time and place to teach Rae and the other humans a vital lesson: love conquers fear. People lover, dog lover, by description, Rae would have to be a Virgo, an earth mother, Dante her intransigent spirit guide. Luan Gaines/2005.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Fun with Dogs But-- April 13 2005
By Constance M. Gotsch - Published on
Format: Hardcover
SIGHT HOUND by Pam Houston is hard to describe. Parts are funny, and if you own a dog, they're gut-busting, because you've had similar experiences with your pets. Parts of the story are emotionally wrenching, as when the heroine, Rae struggles to find the right mate. Who hasn't done that? Parts of it are beautiful, such as the descriptions of the Colorado ranch where Rae lives. Parts of it are fantastic, as when Houston paints the world through the eyes of family pets, who believe they are on earth to help RAE achieve her chosen goal, to find a nice human being to sped time with. Parts, unfortunaely, are unconvincing. There are a couple of characters who don't feel real.

SIGHT HOUND is a tough read. Houston writes from several peoples' points of view, and then from a couple of dogs' perspectives. Thus the reader gets the story by seeing a particular event from many angles, as if putting together a picture puzzle. For someone with the patience to keep reading, the reward will be a complete picture of plot and character development. But it takes several chapters before the story starts to come together.

But in a sense, that's what makes SIGHT HOUND work.

Houston is carefully portraying the madcap life we all seem to be living in the early 21st Century, spiritually, politically, romanticly, socially, and professionally. The story's main character, Rae, is trying to cope with a career, a succession of male friends and their issues, and the illness of a special pet. Houston shows us Rae's process in the fragmented bits and pieces our lives become. Because a reader can recognize something of him or herself in each character's point of view at a particular moment, it's fairly easy to develop the discipline to keep reading. Then suddenly, the book will not be laid aside until the story comes to its conclusion. This is very real-life, and in its own way satisfying.

I would recommend SIGHT HOUND for the serious reader, who likes unusual plot lines and depictions of the odd moments in life. In the end, that's what I liked about the book.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific novel debut Jan. 20 2005
By ReaderKate - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the best things about Pam Houston's writing is how she manages to unearth the preciousness in the imperfect. A three-legged dog, an "unstable" actor, a seemingly cold veterinary surgeon - the heroes of Sight Hound are not the most likely candidates, but each is rendered wholly and convincingly real. The woman who brings them together, Rae, has her own flaws as well, the biggest of which is perhaps a willingness to place too much trust in the wrong people, although she balances that with an equally strong knack for finding the right ones. The bond between Rae and Dante, the wolfhound and title character, is as deep and true as any human love, perhaps more. In the end, what makes this novel satisfying is the same thing that makes all of Houston's work so powerful. She makes us realize that ultimately it is our flaws, our willingness to be human, to risk, to make mistakes, to screw up, to be vulnerable and laid bare that open the door to the most meaningful moments in our lives.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Journey of Risk, Courage, and, Ultimately, Hope Jan. 27 2005
By outdoorbabs - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This long-awaited first novel from writer Pam Houston does not disappoint. With candor and a balance of pain and humor that we've come to expect from Houston, Sighthound is a journey that will leave you deeply touched and changed. The novel is written from multiple points of view, and everyone gets to speak including the narrator Rae, her family of dogs, her quirky yet lovable actor husband, two veterinarians and Rae's diverse community of friends. Sighthound takes the reader on a wonderful journey of hope and courage, and I was left feeling like even the painful moments in life can bring us joy. It's an engaging read that takes a lot of emotional as well as structural risks, and they all pay off. A wonderful story of love and hope and connection with others! I can't wait for her next novel.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heart - felt gems of wisdom but lacking in convincing plot development Aug. 9 2006
By Fiction Fanatic - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There is much to like about this book, but it is not ultimately as satisfying as it might have been. First, the many good things.

If you like dogs, know one, have one, would like to have one, then what's likeable about the book is the homage it pays to dogs and what they can do for people. For folks very rooted in empiricism, it may be a little over the top, because the dogs are given complex consciousness, understanding, and generosity. But for dog lovers, it can be fun to imagine that degree of complex thinking in our canine companions. The dogs are hard not to love.

The writing is light and funny. Great turns of phrase, irony, hyperbole, even jokes. So it's an amusing read.

The story touches on some poignant themes, especially the illness of the main dog character, an Irish wolfhound named Dante. There are two important aspects of this theme: the refinement of veterinary medicine through Dante as experimental treatment subject; and the emotional growth of Dante's owner Rae as she comes to terms with loving and losing her beloved Dante through illness and death.

Another appealing theme is Rae's progress through faulty love affairs to finally emerge with enough self-love to recognize a good love match when it comes her way. [Dante is given as much credit for this outcome as either of the human protagonists, and that's another bit of dog homage that may appeal to doglovers but might leave the uninitiated cold.]

Now the not so good aspects of this novel.

Another reviewer here made the point that there are lots of characters who speak and tell the story and that it can get confusing. I didn't share the confusion but I couldn't get interested in all the perspectives because some of the characters were not developed enough for me to care what they thought of things. They seemed like extraneous filler.

And that leads me to agree with yet another reviewer here that the voice and language or each character were not distinct. Several characters blended right in with each other so that it seemed to be the same perspective offered despite the different names assigned to the narrative.

Finally, the book had a good beginning and strong ending, but the middle part didn't seem to go anywhere. There is a suicide midway that doesn't seem related to other things going on in the book. There is a hockey player character who is too exaggerated to be either interesting or convincing. A drought that the main characters must endure conveys respect for nature and the characters' nostalgia for the beauty of the Colorado landscape. But because not all of the characters are well developed to be important, the novel reads like good, strong bookends holding up a library of only mild interest.

That said, I still recommend the book for the positive qualities I mentioned above, because it has moments that are moving, and because it is entertaining.

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