Marley and Me is a fine amalgamation of memoir of Marley; Grogan’s wiggly, overzealous, yellow Labrador retriever and an autobiographical account of a married couple’s journey, from newly weds to a picture perfect family of five, complete with a loving dog sprawled at their feet.
Lovers for long, John and Jenny tie the knot and move to a little bungalow in south Florida. They soon bring home a lab pup expecting a calm, sweet-natured, well-mannered pet like the ones they had grown up around. But Marley turned out to be a complete antithesis of the word “calm”. A bundle of nerves, he is wildly excitable, destructive, suffers an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is thick skulled enough to get thrown out of obedience school, even sedatives prescribed by the vet couldn’t help him. His middle name could well be “trouble”. He was absolutely naïve regarding his strength and size. But his antics and madness make the bonds in the Grogan household grow deeper if anything. He gives them the confidence to start a family of their own. He bestows them with patience and compassion, adds a completely new dimension of loyalty and friendship, awakes the maternal instinct in Jenny to an extent that she surprises herself at times. She is no longer the cold “plant killer” that she once used to be. With the arrival of the kids, another shade of Marley’s being comes forth. He becomes friendly and never ever raises an eyebrow around them let alone attacking or hurting them in anyway. He also proves to be protective towards the family and seems to sense if something is seriously wrong. Like this one time when burglars broke into the neighborhood, Marley transformed into this responsible, alert guard dog and almost helped John save a neighbor’s life.
During Marley’s lifetime, that can rightly be called as thirteen years of eternal puppyhood, As the Grogans increase in number at steady intervals, switch jobs, change residences from West Palm Beach, to Boca Raton and then finally to the Pennsylvanian countryside, the dog shreds their furniture to bits, swallows Jenny’s eighteen carat necklace, get neutered, suffers from thunder phobia and dreadful ear problems, “stars” for a few minutes in a movie called “The last home run”, once pulls a table at a downtown restaurant in order to make friends with a female poodle! All in a day’s work!
As a debutant author, Grogan amazes the readers with every passing passage. He is clear, witty and articulate. He has presented the facts in a manner that is as on-the-face and honest as it can get. He shares all the details, be it the funny or the sad ones, with his signature common-man-quick-witted undertone. Whether it is Jenny’s miscarriage or the birth of their kids, the details reach the reader along with the emotions without the slightest adulteration or exaggeration. His description of Marley is so bang on target that every Labrador owner would have to stop reading every few pages to think or say, “Same here”. The novel has moments of extreme emotion explosion. You will find yourself sporting your biggest grin, laughing your guts out and even shedding a tear or two. Most importantly, it’s not a book for just dog lovers but for everyone who wishes to know the meaning of unconditional love and companionship.
The most significant thing is perhaps the farewell the family bids to their best friend. In fact the very idea of writing the book came to Grogan when his column in Philadelphia Inquirer on Marley’s demise drew an enormous amount of response. Published in 2005, Marley and Me, soon turned into a phenomenon in itself. The book made it to the New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller list. It’s been published in more than ten countries across the globe. In 2008, the book was adapted into a motion picture by the same name starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Grogan has extended the Marley enterprise by following it up with three different versions of the book for children; Bad Dog, Marley. A very Marley Christmas and Marley: A dog like no other.
His latest and second offering, The longest trip home (2008), is again a memoir but this time of his own childhood and his life with his parents.