Independently published through Broadcast Books, Australia, 2022
Cover design Matthew Oswald, Like Design
Cover photo by the author
It is by no means a new thing to write a book from an animal’s point of view. Such works often have an agenda and others tend to the twee. Neither is the case with Karen Waldman’s smart, funny and insightful work with Sidnie the English Cocker Spaniel in the driving seat.
While this memoir is about the relationship between Karen and her dog Sidnie and their travels to America, where she and her American born husband lived for a few years (on her husband’s Christmas tree farm in New Jersey), it is also a gentle but keenly observed commentary on cultural difference.
Karen writes with warmth and wit. In seeing the world through Sidnie’s eyes, she enables us to also observe the absurdities of human life and to grasp the importance of love, shelter and family.
Culture shock is a factor when one moves continents, no matter how similar the places may seem on the surface. It is Karen’s attitude of acceptance and tolerance that characterises the telling of her (and SIdnie’s) experiences.
She points out the differences but rarely critically, except in the matter of the deer hunters who blaze away during the season on land near their property. Otherwise, it’s things like the propensity of the Americans to celebrate all the seasonal and religious festivities with a profusion of decoration and public fervour.
Halloween witches or giant pumpkins on rooves, Fall wreaths on door with their glorious leaf colour, lights and lights and lights festooned on house for Christmas become the order of the day and even Karen falls prey to a bit of competitiveness.
Sidnie’s travels by aeroplane are cleverly imagined from his point of view. One feels for the poor chap and his fellow traveller, shut up in a dark hold for 15 hours on the journey to the USA, but we also feel for Karen as she worries about his welfare when everything doesn’t go to plan. The book is, of course, a delightful glimpse of Karen who is not averse to self-criticism.
What remains with us, apart from Karen’s keen eye for social commentary, is the love story – dog and human being bonding and supporting one another, as we know they can and do.
This book will strike a chord with dog owners and lovers, and the pandemic has increased that number considerably over the last two years. However, it also holds its own simply as memoir – Karen’s prose is fluid, entertaining and clear. It’s a pleasure to read.
The book is available locally at Yass Book Store as well as through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the usual online sellers.
Thank you to Karen for my review copy and for a relaxed and interesting conversation about the book and American culture.