Yes, it's another mainstream bestseller which is actually sf. Slipstream, anyway.

Paul's wife Lexy plummets from an apple tree in their yard and dies. There are mysterious circumstances surrounding her death, but the only witness is their dog Lorelei. As in this world, dogs have occasionally been taught to talk, Paul tries to teach Lorelei to talk in order to find out what happened to Lexy.

Flashbacks to their nauseatingly cute courtship and marriage ensue. Lexy (lexicon, get it?) made masks. Masks symbolize the surface which Paul is trying to burrow beneath. They symbolize Lexy's adorable surface which covers up her pain. Paul's travails with Lorelei lead him to a bittersweet understanding of the truth about him, his wife, language, love, death, life, dogs...

Here's how you can tell that the author did not think she was writing sf: although the setting is a world identical to our own except that some people have succeeded in teaching and/or surgically altering dogs so they can talk, and though this single alteration is so central to the plot that the book could not exist without it, the thread of the story which deals with an evil dog-mutilating cabal and with the tragic figure of an altered dog is briefly of crucial importance, then abandoned with no explanation of what happened to the dog-mutilators, the mutilated dog, or why they did something of major significance to the main characters, but which makes no sense whatsoever when you think about it.

I didn't like the book at all. I thought it was over-weighted with obvious symbolism, cutesy, sentimental, and that the sf elements were poorly handled. Also I found all the characters annoying, except for Lorelei, who was boring. On the positive side, it doesn't go into any details about the dog mutilation.

(For non-speaking fictional dogs with personality, see Robin McKinley's DEERSKIN, R. A. MacAvoy's back-in-print LENS OF THE WORLD and its stand-alone sequels KING OF THE DEAD and THE BELLY OF THE WOLF (the dog in the latter books might be a wolf and is unlike any of my other recommendations in being overwhelmingly creepy and disturbing), Gerald Durrell's hilarious MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS, the complete works of James Herriot, and all those YA novels where the dogs die gruesomely at the end.)

Great premise, though.

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