Dog Boy: A Novel - Eva Hornung I won this through the first reads program here at Goodreads. My first win!

Romochka is a four year old boy who wakes up one morning to find his mother and uncle, along with everyone in his apartment building, gone. After a few days he ventures outside into the cold unforgiving streets of Moscow. The author doesn’t explain where everyone has gone as the story is told from the abandoned child’s perspective but my guess is desperation. The setting appears to be a war torn country.

Cold, hungry and scared he spies a large dog and knows her belly will be warm from prior experience so he follows her. Thus begins his integration into her pack. Mamochka, her brothers and her young puppies become Romochka’s new family and it isn’t long before he becomes more dog-like in mannerism than human. The dogs are feral and every day is a struggle for survival, hunting food and eating it raw, cleaning their wounds with only their tongues, marking territory and avoiding other stray packs of dogs in order to make it another day.

This story was a gripping and gory, if not always believable, account about what it might be like if a pack of feral dogs accepted a human toddler into their midst. Their habits and their love and protection for each other and the human boy were fascinating and heartbreaking and excellently portrayed. There isn’t very much dialogue for most of the book and as a result the story seemed even more intimate to me because we feel everything the dogs and boy experience. Parts seemed a bit too far fetched for me and at times Romochka seemed wise and physically capable beyond his years but who really knows what a young human with strong survival instincts is capable of when left out in the wild this way?

I must admit I was more entranced by the first half where the boys’ life becomes integrated with that of the dogs. The latter half where humans interfere broke my heart and the book then lost some of its appeal.

This is a book I’d recommend reading if you’re interesting in dogs as much as I am and/or enjoy a strong survival story with a unique take on things.