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Animal stories like Black Beauty and Call Of The Wild offer a unique reading experience. They give us a look at our society from, literally, a different level and work as a mosaic of stories as the protagonist goes from owner to owner, while covering the arc of the animal's experience. George Pelecanos gives the genre a more urban spin in the novella Buster: A Dog.

Buster is a a boxer born in a projects apartment to a working class family headed by a single mother. The oldest son won Buster's mother, Kiki, in a dice game, not knowing she was pregnant. Caring for Kiki, Buster, and his sister put a strain on the family. In a desperate moment, the mother sells Buster to an exterminator, Ed Grange.

Grange, an alcoholic, brings Buster into his highly dysfunctional family. Buster bonds with Ed's son, Troy, but does his best to avoid the abusive man of the house. When Ed's wife leaves him, she takes Troy, but leaves Buster behind. Ed neglects him to such a degree, animal control in notified. He escapes their hands before they get him to the shelter.

Buster fends for himself on the D.C. streets. The stagnant water and rancid food make him sick, but he survives. With a mangier look, most people avoid the boxer., until he crosses paths with an aging widower. Soon the man hands him off to his nephew, Top.

Buster's time with Top, a marijuana trafficker, most resembles your usual George Pelecanos story. Top takes him to his luxury home and makes the strongest bond, even buying him with a collar with his name written in diamonds. Buster witnesses his master deal with a turf war and debate in his own ranks. When Top is arrested, Buster faces time in a shelter and runs into a pitbull he will meet later.

Pelecanos picks a voice somewhere in the middle of how and actual boxer might think and full blown anthropomorphism. He filters most of the story through his senses and primal emotions.Years pass by Buster speaking of getting, warm, cold, and when the leaves are on the ground. There is very little deep observations, other than between the lines. We experience Buster build his instinct when dealing with humans. Pride ends up playing a large part in his life. When taken from Kik, he makes a point not to cry.

We can see our own lives reflected in Buster's. The book opens with him discussing the patchiness of early memories. His are playing with his siblings and being close to his mother. Pelecanos draws comparisons to the attitude of Kiki and their single mom owner. Even though he can survive on his own, he always seeks human companionship. Near the end of the book, he respects the comfortable spot he has found himself in but misses the excitement of his past. he recalls wearing his diamond collar, riding with Top in his Monte Carlo, their heads moving to the music, when he was a king.

Under ninety pages, Buster: A Dog works as a great afternoon read and more. As we follow Buster, Pelecanos views life in its survival, fears, simple joys, and connections, as well as what we take from it all. There's a lot of humanity in Buster.


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