Review

The Labrador Pact

by Matt Haig

Crises of faith are not new subjects for fiction. But what's
surprising about Matt Haig's novel, THE LABRADOR PACT, is the
protagonist undergoing that crisis: a dog. Not just any dog, but
Prince, the eternally faithful companion of the Hunters, a family
in crisis. Prince knows that it's his job to preserve the integrity
of his Family at all costs, thereby helping to maintain the
integrity of all human families everywhere.


Prince's family, however, seems bound and determined to test the
abilities of their Labrador. Adam and Kate, the father and mother
of the Hunter clan, have been married for years but find themselves
drawn by desire to new neighbors, figures from the past who
suddenly turn up in their relatively comfortable lives and wreak
havoc with the sanctity of marriage. Then there's Charlotte, a
13-year-old Goth girl whose desire for freedom clashes tragically
with her father's fears for the safety of his little girl. And
there's Hal, whose plans to ace his A levels and go on to
university might be permanently derailed by his tendency to
experiment with drugs.


What's a lowly Labrador to do? In Prince's case, every new,
perplexing turn of events in his human family raises more
questions. Why do humans behave as they do? Is it really possible
for a family dog to preserve the sanctity of the nuclear family?
Prince and his fellow Labs certainly think so --- at least at
first. Prince's mentor, a golden Lab named Henry, introduces Prince
to the finer points of the so-called Labrador Pact --- a solemn vow
that places Duty foremost and offers its adherents their Eternal
Reward: "If we protect human Families on earth, we will be united
with our own in the afterlife." But as Prince grows increasingly
entwined with his humans' fates, he begins to question everything,
not only his Family's peculiar behavior but also Henry's motives
and his own unflinching belief in the Pact. Again, what's a lowly
Labrador to do?


Haig's previous adult novel published in the United States, THE
DEAD FATHERS CLUB, was a clever, insightful retelling of the story
of Hamlet from the point of view of a contemporary child.
Astute readers will recognize Haig's affinity for Shakespeare in
THE LABRADOR PACT as well, but they will also observe the author's
nearly uncanny ability to use a naïve narrator to shed
surprisingly sophisticated light on adult concerns and
relationships.


Fiction about animals can tread an uneasy line between fantasy and
sentimentality. Matt Haig toes that line brilliantly, resulting in
a novel about animals that not only sheds light on that most sacred
of all relationships --- the one between man and dog --- but that
also offers a keen, clear-eyed outsider's insight on human foibles,
good and bad. Readers fortunate enough to inhabit Prince's point of
view for a while will walk away from THE LABRADOR PACT humbled,
thoughtful and deeply affected --- and with a whole new perspective
on their own relationships with man's best friend.


   









Reviewed by Norah Piehl on December 30, 2010

The Labrador Pact
by Matt Haig

  • Publication Date: February 28, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • ISBN-10: 067001852X
  • ISBN-13: 9780670018529