Review: Lily and the Octopus

by Janna
Published: Last Updated on

A few of us Literary Quicksand writers are members of the Girly Book Club, an international book club that brings together ladies all over the world. If you’re interested in joining a chapter, or starting your own, click here.

April’s Girly Book Club pick was Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley. The book depicts the emotionally fraught Ted and his difficulty dealing with the inevitable death of his lovable dachshund, Lily. Read on to see what we thought!


If I sum up Lily and the Octopus in one sentence, it’s that it made me laugh and made me sad in equal measure. My parent’s dog is a long-hair miniature dachshund named Pennystella, so when Rowley describes Lily’s movements and actions, I can visualize our own dog doing those same things. This is probably why this book tugged at my heart strings so much.

I thought Rowley captures how people grasp on to things they know they’re going to lose, while recognizing that knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. I mean, having your dog die of a brain tumor is just generally terrible, but when you’ve used your precious dog as an emotional crutch for the last several years, it becomes even more difficult to let go. I was never really sure if Ted actually believed Lily had an octopus on her head or not, but it makes for an interesting take on mental health and how we process grief. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I’m curious what everyone else thought.


I also did really like Lily and the Octopus. It also got some really good and fairly substantial discussion out of our bookclub, which seems to be hit and miss with our group depending on the content. One of the best questions was “Do we treat our animals better or worse than we treat our human family members?” Our discussion went crazy!!

I definitely was pretty emotionally guarded going in to this book, especially once I realized that our topic at hand was pet death. My family lost our miniature schnauzer Tasha a few years ago to cancer, and since my dad is a vet, it was so frustrating that there was nothing he could do to “fix it”. My least favourite part of the story was a dream sequence that Rowley wrote in as a metaphoric bridge. But I found this part a little unnecessary, and so I actually was pretty surprised when I cried my eyes out at the end. Honestly, his description of a veterinary clinic was so vivid I could almost smell my dad’s office.

I really enjoyed Lily and the Octopus, and I do think I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Art of Racing in the Rain. Fifteen Dogs is on my to-read list and after this one, I think I might be starting to have a new “fave genre” – pet & people stories!


I was really on the fence about Lily and the Octopus. It had its moments, but overall I wasn’t enthralled. You read the book knowing that the dog is clearly going to die and it’s just going to emotionally wreck the narrator, and you just kind of wait for it to happen while he (Ted) grapples with his own mental health and the prospect of losing his beloved pup, who has served as his emotional crutch for years.

It’s that part of the story that I DID enjoy – Ted’s journey through his depression and his search for meaningful relationships. However, the way he seems to hear his dog talk back to him and the whole dream part in the middle just threw me off. I wanted to love it as a cute but story about a man and his dying dog, but it was hard for me.

That said, I did really like the ending. The way Rowley ties everything up worked for me, and did leave me feeling satisfied. In my confusion of whether I liked it or not, I gave it 3 stars.

Lily and the Octopus Book Cover
Lily and the Octopus Fiction Simon and Schuster

Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of PiLily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.

When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.

The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details. We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.

For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog. Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.

Remember the last book you told someone they had to read? Lily and the Octopus is the next one. 

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