This one was my very first WOW (Waiting on Wednesday) pick, and I think the jacket summary is so perfect, I’m just going to repeat it word for word here:
In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs. Three hundred years later, after one hundred lives as a dog, she returned to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
When I first read the summary on the official website, my whole body tingled. I HAD to have this book. You see, I adore high concept novels, and I’m always looking for books that somehow shock me out of my novel conventions and blow me away, such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Altas or Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair (two of my top 10 books of all time). And the summary gave me hope that it would turn out to be just such a book.
Well I am thrilled to report that it delivered on its high concept, innovative premise (just absolutely not in the way I expected it to) with a rich story spanning four centuries and several continents and featuring two very well developed heroines (who ARE separate entities though they are mystically linked). In stories that alternate every few chapters, we follow Emer’s tumultuous childhood in Ireland and her evolution into a famed Caribbean pirate as well as Saffron’s own struggles in a downtrodden modern American family who has pinned all their hopes of a better life on her. It somehow manages to be epic and intimate at the same time.
There are also a few chapters from the POV of an old, paunchy man named Fred which at first seem wildly out of place, especially in a YA novel, but do fit into the overall narrative. The 8 "Dog Fact" sections, which share lessons learned from 100 dog lifetimes, are fascinating (if a bit on the preachy side in tone).
If you are looking for an original, genre bending, mind-blowing read, you have three options: Buy this book when it comes out on Feb 1st, go by AS King's blog http://dogfact9.blogspot.com/ in these weeks leading up to the launch and try to win a copy in one of her random contests (Subscribing to the blog is the best way to stay updated, because the contests are random and fast!), or be ready to draw your cutlass and then pry the ARC out of my cold dead hands. I implore you to choose option 1 or 2.
And now let’s hear from Saffron herself.
Thanks for joining us Saffron ;)
You’re very welcome! Thrilled to be here.
So Saffron, in the late 17th century, you were a beautiful pirate named Emer who was cursed with the dust of 100 dogs. Then you lived the lives of 100 dogs before being reincarnated as a human baby in 1972 with all your memories intact. As far as I know, this is highly unusual. Have you heard about any cases similar to yours where this dust was used to the same effect?
I’ve never heard of another case, but I’ve never looked into it, either. I’m thinking most people would find it hard to believe – but people believe all sorts of crazy things depending on what they’re taught. I understand the Caribbean is still rife with voodoo. You might want to investigate down there, if you’re wondering.
Do you think it’s possible that you have past lives even further back than Emer? Is it something you’d like to find out?
I think anything is possible, within reason. But I’m not sure I’d want to find out. I mean, on one hand, it’s been cool having this knowledge all my life, but on the other hand, it’s not easy to have the memories of another person running through your head. I need to get on with my own life and move forward now.
What would you do with all that pirate booty you buried as Emer if you ever find it?
Tough question to answer without spoilers. But, before I got to Jamaica, I really hadn’t thought about what I was going to do with the booty. I just saw it as a key to my freedom, when really, leaving was the key to my freedom.
Have you “inherited” any of Emer’s more physical talents like sword fighting or cross-stitching or just the intellectual memories?
Sewing wasn’t big in my house. Sadie (my mother) wore a lot of polyester, you know? The few times I’ve been faced with a fight, I was more scared than daring. I’m more of a peacekeeper this time around, I think. Probably a by-product of the 300-year-old brain.
Did you know so much about the goings on in the Truman White House as a young child because you actually lived there as a dog, or because you watched a lot of TV or read a lot of newspapers as a dog? And did any of your owners notice that you seemed more “human” than most dogs?
I was one of the Trumans’ two dogs during their time in the White House. I didn’t stay for long, but I paid attention while I was there.
I allowed only one owner to see the full spectrum of my ability. Back in the 1790’s, I lived with a little girl named Bertha, and she was very ill. I obeyed everything she said, and used my knowledge of human language to attend to her until her final breath. We held entire conversations during her last days, and though she assumed it was a disease-induced hallucination, I know deep down she knew it was really happening.
You must have been a lot of different breeds of dog. Which breed did you enjoy being the most?
I always loved being a healthy, well-treated dog, no matter what breed, but my favorites were the Doberman, Labrador retriever, Rottweiler, and Great Dane. (Note: being a small dog is nice, but being a big dog has clout. It matters.)
What was your best experience as a dog? What was your worst? Ever hang out with any nice cats (My cat Emmy wanted me to ask this)?
Best: Swimming in the sea and drying off in front of a hot beach fire.
Worst: You really don’t want to know. Some people are very cruel to dogs.
Cats: Yes! I met a lot of awesome cats over the years. It took me a while to understand the feline way, but all it takes is patience and a knack for turning the other cheek when scratched. After a few tests, most cats will allow you into their world (as long as you don’t try to eat their food.)
It was amazing to have you here, Saffron. Thanks again!
(note: The dog pictured was Author AS King's first dog. She says, "She was a true education in dog ownership!")
UPDATE Jan 29, 2009: Here's another great interview with Saffron at Michelle's Minions.
UPDATE Feb 2, 2009: Here's an interview with Emer (and Amy) at The Book Muncher.