Repetition is a constant within Emma Richler’s Feed My Dear Dogs. As the life of the Weiss family (first introduced in the book Sister Crazy) is narrated by their middle child, Jem, the replication of events and selective vocabulary at first seems mildly grating, but soon proves to be fittingly within the parameters of child-speak.
To its credit, the novel is an impressive work. The plot is bare, but the characterization is rich. The Weiss family is comprised of five children, a grizzly Jewish sportswriter father, and an angelic Catholic housewife mother. It is a mixed marriage in more than one sense-she is British, and he is Canadian. A smattering of Jewish and Christian imagery continually washes across Jem’s consciousness as she tries to tell a tale of her family and reconcile the status of her religious identity. Jem’s personal mythology includes references to the western Shane and King Arthur and his knights. They are part of the larger system that allows her to relate to the world around her.
While some have criticized the novel for being too long, the benefit of a 502-page book with a bare-bones plot can be found in the character growth. There lies an organic progression as the children get older. This proves striking when coupled with generous description. Everything seems very real and very sincere.
Richler is clearly comfortable with the pen, and exercises her unvarnished skill within the confines of her newly published tome. The over-the-top repetition does not eclipse the strength of the work, but invariably adds to it. The reader is treated to an unrestrained peek into the mind of the narrator.
Judging by the raw emotional power found in Feed My Dear Dogs, it is only a matter of time until Emma Richler ascends to the literary greatness worthy of her name-and ability.-AVI WEINRYB