When I try to remember how I first learned about The Pug List: A Ridiculous Little Dog, A Family Who Lost Everything, And How They All Found Their Way Home, I’m not really sure. The author, Alison Hodgson, and I are both from the Grand Rapids area and have some mutual friends even though we’ve never met. Pictures of her and that adorable pug, Oliver, kept showing up on my newsfeed. I also found out she was going to be a speaker at the Festival of Faith & Writing and added her to my list of authors to read before I attended this event.
Or maybe it was an appearance with her pug on a local news broadcast. Perhaps their book signings at local bookstores and Costco? No, I’m not really sure how I first heard about The Pug List. But I’ve learned this, when you see the same title over and over again, it usually means you’ll end up reading a good book.
And The Pug List is one good book. Notice I didn’t say a “feel good” book. As the author shared at a FFW panel called "Memoir as Feminist Testimony," it’s not at all one she planned on sharing. A true story about a family trying desperately to make the most out of an unbelievable tragedy. About a community learning how to help some of their own and a woman, her husband and children learning how to let others help.
Later, when I need to reference the fire and want to succinctly explain what happened, I simply say, “When an arsonist randomly set our house on fire, we were all home and in bed, and we escaped with the clothes on our backs.”
Yes, it’s also a story about a dog. More than one dog actually. Their youngest daughter, Eden, decided she really wanted a pug. Even though they already had a family dog. In the midst of dealing with all the trauma of the house fire, they agreed to let her save up for a pug, saying “We’ll see.”
That’s all the encouragement Eden needed.
She began to keep a journal of sorts. I saw her writing in it frequently. It was a simple spiral notebook with a picture of a fawn pug puppy on the cover. “Pug List,” Eden has written in her sprawling hand, and she drew a little heart beneath it. Years later, she told me she named it this because she didn’t know how to spell diary.
At the end of the book we get to meet Oliver the pug in all his uniqueness. And should you fall in love with Oliver too, you can, um, follow him on Instagram: The Real Pug Oliver.
The Pug List is not a “once upon a time” and “happily ever after” kind of book… but it does have its oooo and awww moments. I read several portions to my husband in the two days it took me to gobble it up.