07 April 2011

Post 369: The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. ISBN: 9780763639310.

My fiance and I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Manchee, the talking dog. Mainly because my fiance enjoys poop humor, and so the phrase, "Poo, Todd" has been incorporated into the repertoire of Things We Say To Each Other. And Danny hasn't even read the book yet, although he's enjoyed passages I've read aloud.

I think part of the appeal of this book for me was that the talking animals weren't shown as particularly smart. The fact that they added to the stream of Noise without usually contributing anything of value fits in well with my human preconceived notion that most animals do not have thoughts far beyond their bodily functions, the registering of pain, and noticing various stimuli. Manchee was good at remembering and reminding Todd of certain concepts, like promises he made, etc. but for the most part Manchee thinks how we expect a dog to think. And in some ways that is far more refreshing than turning him into a Mr. Peabody and Sherman type of caricature. Whether thoughts for more advanced animals (monkeys, elephants, dolphins, etc) would have held true to this is in question because we don't meet any of those on Todd's planet.

It does ask a question, and the asking asks an answer: would having a talking animal make their inevitable loss more or less devastating?

I could see it both ways. On the one hand, part of the thing we love most about pets is having someone in our lives that doesn't judge us. But what if those pets do judge us and our human brains just can't comprehend how they are doing it? What if the thought that runs through your dog's mind when you cry on his fur after a bad break up is, "You sure do smell bad today"? Pets wouldn't be so pleasant to keep around.

But a thought pattern like Manchee's? One which is so simple and uncomplicated and just there? That would be devastating. You can see how much Manchee loves Todd, even though through the first third of the book Todd is complaining that he never wanted Manchee, etc. But Manchee loves that boy and seems to know that Todd doesn't mean it, and perhaps Manchee, being a dog, doesn't care. So even though it would be fun to hear what my cat is thinking (Bite, bite, bite, Curtain! bite!), I don't think I would want to. If only because it is already hard enough to lose a pet.

Presenting Lenore has an excellent short review if you are spoiler-phobic. Roxanne, another Goodreader, managed to sum up my general feelings about the end of the book, also without being too spoilery.
LibsNote: Library copy.


  1. I enjoy this book so very much. And you are right that the relationship between Todd and Manchee is actually made more poignant by Manchee's lack of sophistication; I loved it that he remained a dog and was not overly humanized.

  2. Trisha, it's definitely something authors overdo in dog books, I think. I do not doubt that dog's are able to have profound thoughts, but I get the feeling those are rarer than the typical anthropomorphization would have us believe. I'm pretty sure most of us love our pets precisely for their less sophisticated thoughts, regardless of whether or not we are bombarded with their Noise.


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