Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (2015)

André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award and was a co-winner of the Trillium Award.


What happens when two Gods decide to bestow on a group of fifteen dogs “human intelligence” to see if they will die happy as a result? From the first puzzling grasp of empathy for a fellow creature to fully coming to love a human, the dogs find themselves in the precarious position of managing their sudden self-awareness and reconciling a desperate need to remain canine. For some dogs, the ability to think and communicate is liberating, while for others power and the pack mentality is the priority and they will enforce the rules without mercy.

Fifteen Dogs is devastating in its exploration of how human consciousness, and the independence and use of language that evolves as a consequence, can create an existential crisis for creatures used to hierarchy and physical forms of communication. Through their eyes, readers experience the deep suffering and confusion the dogs experience coming to terms with their morality, the kind of inner struggle humans have endured for eons. You can’t help thinking long and hard about what it means to be human, as much as what it means to be a dog, long after finishing the book.

As you may have already heard, Fifteen Dogs is violent and while I handled the violence better than I thought I would, I was blown away by how premeditated and malicious the attacks were against targeted dogs just because their acceptance of the new way threatened or irritated the others. It made me sad.

Author André Alexis does more than anthropomorphize canines and give us talking (and even walking) pups. The dogs are a mirror reflecting the complexity of human nature and how language and communication is a bridge to understanding and loving one another. And thanks to Fifteen Dogs, I will probably never look at dogs the same way again, as he gently chides us about the condescending manner humans make dogs perform tricks or treat them like furry children. I’ll be chewing on that bone for some time (no pun intended).

4/5 Stars

P.S. For more insight into Fifteen Dogs, please check out posts by Naomi and Laura from Reading In Bed’s discussion on Write Reads. They convinced me to read the book!


7 comments on “Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis (2015)

  1. Naomi
    June 8, 2015

    You put it so well! I found it hard to describe this book, and everything Alexis tried to do with it. My review is kind of rambling.
    I was also shocked at how violent it was, but felt like it needed to be. I felt like he really knew his dogs and what they were thinking. As I look at my own dog, I try to remember that it was just an experiment, and that my dog is really just a normal dog. It took a little time. 🙂


    • ebookclassics
      June 9, 2015

      I loved your review! I meant to link to it, so I’m going to add it to my review. But I agree it really is difficult to express the book’s uniqueness. I almost didn’t read the book because of the violence, but I’m so glad Laura convinced me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brian Joseph
    June 9, 2015

    This sounds fascinating.

    This is something that I think that I would like to read. This kind of speculative fiction really has a way of digging into issues that are fundamental to existence.

    I think that that you described might be a bit too much however.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ebookclassics
      June 9, 2015

      I think you would really like this book and appreciate the moral dilemma of the dogs. There’s really a lot of food for thought in Fifteen Dogs.


  3. DoingDewey
    June 13, 2015

    I think I’ll pass on this one! Violence against animals bothers me a lot.


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