Book Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley



“We’re going on an awfully big adventure.” Death. Death is an awfully big adventure. But not this time. Not this adventure. The greatest adventure, our adventure, is the fight to live.

Lily and the Octopus is a story of man’s best friend becoming one man’s nearly only friend, the turmoil of loss and the joy of moving forward. Ted is a neurotic, self-doubting, emotionally stunted man who deeply loves his dachshund, Lily. They share an almost human friendship complete with gossiping about boys and sharing meals.

“Dogs, on the other hand… dogs have pure souls. Look at me.” I grab her chin and look straight into her eyes. “Dogs are always good and full of selfless love. They are undiluted vessels of joy who never, ever deserve anything bad that happens to them. Especially you. Since the day I met you, you have done nothing but make my life better in every possible way. Do you understand?”

When Lily develops a growth above her eye, The Octopus- a euphemism for a fatal tumor, Ted’s world is turned upside-down. He is forced to imagine his life sans Lily and he is unprepared for what this holds.

Less than twenty-four hours since the arrival of our..cephalopod houseguest, I already recognize a trait we share: I, too, am hiding in plain sight, I am walking through life invisible, sulking like a failure, hoping few people notice me.

Ted has turned into himself and away from the world. After his last serious relationship ended, he saw no real desire to continue the charade of dating. However, he made pitiful attempts to satisfy his theraapist. His one true love is Lily. The fear of losing his dearest friend grips Ted so ferociously that he begins to imagine conversations with the octopus- who is an arrogant SOB, which is to be expected from a tumor parading as a sea creature. Fueled by a desire to stave off the impending death of Lily, Ted charters a boat and embarks on a fantastical quest to hunt down the octopus and inflict, full force, the amount of pain it is burdoning Lily with.

I look at my sleeping love and silently beg her forgiveness. What have I gotten us into? She doesn’t need this. She doesn’t want this. She doesn’t understand revenge. And while I prefer to think of our voyage as an offensive maneuver, there’s no denying that’s partly what it is. Revenge. You weighed anchor in our waters, now we sail deeply in yours.

It is after this journey into Ted’s subconcious that he awakens to Lily in the grips of a seziure and he knows the time has come.

It is in this pain that we are tested. Since I am in this pain, the pain of having what is special taken from me, I look inside myself and I don’t like what I see: a man who is broken and alone. I think of all the time Lily and I spent together, just the two of us- the talks about boys, the Monopoly, the movies, the pizza nights- and I wonder how much of it was real. Dogs don’t eat pizza; dogs don’t like Monopoly. I know this on some level, but everything feel so true. How much of it was an elborate construct to mask my own loneliness? How much of it was built to convince myself the attempts I made at real life- therapy, dating- were not just that: attempts? Somewhere, sometime, I stopped really living. I stopped really trying. And I don’t understand why. I had done all the right things. I had Lily. I had Jeffery. I had a family. And then I didn’t.

Examining on the deepest and most innocent level what it means to love, Lily and The Octopus will leave you emotionally exhaused, cuddling your pet closer.

Intrigued? Buy the book here:

Lily & the Octopus
by Steven RowleyHardcover

Read voraciously,


A review copy of this title was provided via Netgalley.


8 thoughts on “Book Review: Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

  1. I didn’t realize this book was about a man and his dog (especially about cancer and the heart breaking decisions we have to make as pet-owners) – I’m a veterinarian, so this is certainly appealing to me! I will definitely have to pick it up now.

    Liked by 1 person

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