Book review: 'Good Boy' by Jennifer Finney Boylan

A memoir of the transformative power of loving dogs
By Sally Rosenthal

Front cover of the Good Boy: My Life In Seven Dogs bookThe truth is simple: Dogs love us unconditionally and unreservedly. Steadfast and wise, they love us for who we are and sometimes for who we yearn to become. Perhaps no one understands the complexity of a dog’s devotion and total acceptance better than Jennifer Finney Boylan.

In her love letter to all the canines who walked beside her through her years of transitioning from male to female, the writer, academic and human rights activist examines the bond she shared with seven very different dogs.

From the Dalmatians of her childhood to the mutts and retrievers of her college years and middle age, the author explores the ways each dog helped define the boy and man she was and led her to the woman she became.

Filled with honesty and insight, Boylan’s memoir is, at times, surprisingly funny. How could life spent with seven dogs be otherwise? Beyond the stories of her dogs, however, is the story of Boylan herself and the self-acceptance and prejudice her transgender identity brought her.

In Good Boy, she speaks out on behalf of herself and other trans individuals. By doing so, she shows readers what dogs have known all along: Everyone is worthy of dignity, respect and, if they are lucky enough, the love of good dogs.

Good Boy: My Life In Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Celadon Books, 2020. Hardcover, 253 pages, $26.99.

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Photo by Kurt Budde

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