Dog Church: a memoir by Gail Gilmore

Book review: Dog Church by Gail Gilmore. “Words meant to be consumed by the heart”

I’m so very glad to have read Dog Church, by Gail Gilmore. Its words are, indeed, meant to be consumed by the heart, and any heart that has known the love and loss of an animal will find itself nourished here. And if you have had to make an end-of-life decision for a beloved companion, you’ll appreciate this unravelling of that journey.

Exploring what makes a good death, and a good life, this story is clear and unflinching, yet poetic and tender. It does not wallow; “Wallowing isn’t something I find useful or attractive,” writes Gail Gilmore. It does pick with sharp precision at the joys and sorrows of a life spent loving. Loving dogs, in particular; loving humans; learning to love oneself.

Writing accurately about grief without drowning in it is a fine skill; Gail Gilmore has a talent for exposing the saddest journeys deftly and honestly while keeping the reader’s head above water. I love this phrase, describing a winter morning on Dog Mountain: “It’s the kind of beauty that, in its utter perfection, sometimes blends with and magnifies pain in a way that’s difficult to put into words but pierces to the core.” This book does just that, yet offers healing for that pain with a blend of honesty, acceptance, hope, faith, and joy.

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