Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Posted November 6, 2019 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus

by Steven Rowley

Publisher: Simon & Schuster on June 7, 2016
Genre: Contemporary, Magical Realism
Target Age Group: Adult

Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.


Much like Gone Girl and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?Lily and the Octopus was one of those books that everyone was reading for a while.  The title and description were just enough to get me vaguely interested and I added it to my TBR… but I wasn’t so invested that I jumped on board the hype train immediately.

And you know what?  This book was good.  It was the perfect balance of funny and sad.  Also, the little summary does it no justice.  Lily and the Octopus is the story of a middle-aged gay man who discovers, one day, that his beloved dachshund has an “octopus” on her head.  The book is about their journey together before the octopus appeared, and his struggles figuring out life with the “octopus” and what to do from there.

While I wasn’t head-over-heels for Ted himself, he was a well-written character. Although bitter, who can see he has a good heart  in his memories with Lily.  And the narrator of this book, Michael Urie, did a wonderful job of bringing over both Lily’s changing state (his excited voice for her was so much fun!) as well as Ted’s.  A good narrator really makes an audiobook, and Urie did a fantastic job.

Here’s the thing – this is not a dog book.  And you guys know what I mean by that, right?  There’s this whole subgenre of books that center around a human’s relationship with their dog, usually of the Hallmark channel emotional drama quality.  Things like Marley and Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain.  People fall over themselves for these kinds of books, and I think that a lot of people initially picked up Lily and the Octopus thinking that was what this was, but it’s not.  While Lily is, of course, an important player… this book is really more about Ted.  And because it’s quirky, it’s not as “heartwarming” as is to be expected within that subgenre.  Could Lily and the Octopus make you cry for the journey the two share?  Possibly.  There are some sad moments, but nothing that pushed me to tears.

Of course, this could just be because I’m a heartless cat person.

Generally a good book to read, though.  It’s well written enough that it flows well and never quite feels like an emotional burden.  Ted regularly visits a therapist (whom he hates, but isn’t portrayed altogether badly) so there is a little mental health rep.  I am not a gay man, so I can’t really speak to the rep there as being fair or accurate, but Ted seemed very human to me and his reactions seemed quite reasonable for anyone who was frustrated in love and in shock and denial.  As always, for a better sense of how Ted is portrayed, please seek out an #OwnVoices review.

Lily and the Octopus was a great one-time read.  It’s not a book I feel I need to own, but I’d say it’s definitely worth borrowing.  I listened to the whole thing in a day, so it’s a book that will easily gobble you up if you let it.


Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★ 1/2
Characters: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Writing: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
Overall: ★★★★


Do you enjoy dog stories?  Honestly… and this probably makes me a bad person… but I usually don’t?  I’m one of those people who doesn’t really understand the appeal of dogs. But I like dachshunds?  They’re a little less… intense.  Nonetheless, pets are the best so tell me all about yours in the comments!

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