Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Brian McGrory
Format: Hardcover, 332 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Pub Date: November 13, 2012
Summary from publisher:
Brian McGrory’s life changed drastically after the death of his beloved dog, Harry: he fell in love with Pam, Harry’s veterinarian. Though Brian’s only responsibility used to be his adored Harry, Pam came with accessories that could not have been more exotic to the city-loving bachelor: a home in suburbia, two young daughters, two dogs, two cats, two rabbits, and a portly, snow-white, red-crowned-and-wattled step-rooster named Buddy. While Buddy loves the women of the house, he takes Brian’s presence as an affront, doing everything he can to drive out his rival. Initially resistant to elements of his new life and to the loud, aggressive rooster (who stares menacingly, pecks threateningly, and is constantly poised to attack), Brian eventually sees that Buddy shares the kind of extraordinary relationship with Pam and her two girls that he wants for himself. The rooster is what Brian needs to be – strong and content, devoted to what he has rather than what might be missing. As he learns how to live by living with animals, Buddy, Brian’s nemesis, becomes Buddy, Brian’s inspiration, in this inherently human story of love, acceptance, and change.
In the tradition of bestsellers like Marley and Me, Dewey, and The Tender Bar comes a heartwarming and wise tale of finding love in life’s second chapter – and how it means all the more when you have to fight for it.
Book review by Zara from The Bibliotaphe Closet:
Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGrory is a brilliant memoir about the reluctant transition a man must make from content autonomy of singlehood to the selflessness that’s required in a longterm relationship, the unexpected and ever-changing moods of children — and in this case, a house full of pets.
Brian McGrory’s experience as a writer and editor for the Boston Globe since the eighties has clearly given him an advantage in writing novels, which in Buddy, obviously showcases his natural ease in writing an effortless and an easily readable and enjoyable prose.
The writing is indicative of McGrory himself: intelligent, witty, thoughtful, and humble enough to be accommodating to those he cares about.
The history of his life-changing relationship with his beloved golden retriever, Harry, is especially genuine and heartfelt that readers, even professed non-dog lovers, will naturally feel a connection to this intelligent, loyal, and gregarious dog, and a deep appreciation for their exceptional relationship with one other.
In comparison, the reader may indeed get frustrated with Harry’s polar opposite, Buddy, the incessantly pecking and crowing, much beloved and spoiled, self-indulged, and self-important, territorial rooster of the family.
It seemed for much of the book that poor McGrory was not only outnumbered by females, animals, and decisions that often put him last; readers may have felt an undeniable empathy—even pity—for the man who reluctantly accommodated great change in his life because of his love and commitment to one woman in his conceding role as second husband, stepfather to two stepdaughters, and bewildered co-owner to 12 feisty animals: Baker, Walter, Charlie, Tigger, Lily, Dolly, Mokey, Lala, Smurf, Chaz, Buddy, and the nameless frog — in one boisterous household.
I certainly did.
The injustice of McGrory’s desires almost always put last in accommodation to please Pam, his wife, and her two daughters in their desire to appease, nurture, and indulge their beloved and domesticated rooster, Buddy, baffled and infuriated me.
While I couldn’t understand how one’s love for an animal could impede on the desires and needs of a family member like McGrory, the length in which the family accommodated this regal, strutting, pecking, and attacking, feathered bird was over and beyond any pet owner’s natural obligation.
But this family isn’t ordinary. Nor is their lifestyle, which accepted and fell in love with an animal that originally began as a school project.
The bird not only watched television with the children, but day trips were postponed to accommodate the rooster’s emotional needs. McGrory was often cawed and pecked at, even aggressively attacked, and yet the bird was “babied” by the women in the household, much to McGrowy’s silent frustration.
And when the family moved into a new home, a matching, mini-house was built for Buddy as well—with drywall siding, cedar shingles, and a transom window to incite a crude truth from one of the builders who wished, “My next life, I want to be your rooster. This is the nicest chicken house in town,” in which McGrory rightly retorts in his narrative,
“In town? There’s not another rooster in any of these United States that resides in the kind of splendor that Buddy would come to have in my side yard, including a transom window to make it all aesthetically pleasing and high ceilings to create a sense of space. You have got to be kidding me.” – pp.212-213.
But, McGrory wasn’t kidding. This was some high-end, special rooster. So special, in fact, that an entire book in the form of a memoir is written in his honour!
Fun aside, the turmoil in the book is also its comedic release and its source of life lessons as McGrory intelligently and sentimentally creates metaphors in which these lessons are taught and learned.
The memoir itself is a wonderful testimony to the suburban struggle and dream, the tenacity of love and patience, the territorial dance between two males when marking the ground in uncertainty to find place and belonging—and the adventures worth taking when you invest yourself in more than just family, but also the animal kingdom.
(Or in this rare case, a family that includes the animal kingdom!)
There’s a lot to roar about in this book, both in anger and frustration, as well as in fear and anxiety. But, there’s a lot of roaring laughter, too. As well as an unexpected tenderness that can only be revealed by the love induced by the unlikeliest creatures.
Buddy, in nature was a spirited rival, a testy and territorial bird, but a beloved creature whose ability to crow loud and “ruffle the feathers” in any situation made him a presence in the hearts and minds (especially McGrory’s — out of fear and anxiety, mostly)—of the family who was and is his eternal flock.
Readers will want to applaud McGrory’s real-life efforts as well as his writing—and by the end of the novel will do the next best thing: cluck!
Characters: 4 stars
Pacing: 5 stars
Cover Design: 3.5 stars
Plot: 4 stars
A special thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unpaid review.
About the author:
Brian McGrory is a longtime newspaper reporter, editor, and columnist. Born and raised in and around Boston, he went to college at Bates College in Maine. He worked for the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, the New Haven Register in Connecticut, and has written for and edited the Boston Globe since 1989. He has a twice weekly column that appears on the front of the metro section, for which he has won the Scripps Howard journalism award, and is the author of four novels. He lives in Massachusetts with his entire family.
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