To the outside world, Roxanne seems terribly lonely: her husband Earl has passed away, and her daughter Linda was murdered. What people don’t understand is that Earl and Linda are still keeping Roxanne company, reincarnated in the forms of a wiener dog and standard poodle. But this relationship—not idyllic, it’s true, but at least relatively harmonious—is disrupted when Roxanne accidentally hits a pit bull with her car. On the precipice of having the dog put down, she recognizes the eyes of her daughter’s killer, Helmut. Should she choose retribution, or forgiveness?
This is the highly original set-up of “You’re Home Now,” the opening story in Rachel Rose’s debut work of fiction. These are clever, engaging stories with a compelling link: the characters, generally living on the fringes of society for some reason or another, all have better relationships with animals than with other humans. There’s a diverse range of creatures, with stories featuring a parrot, an octopus, rats, a chameleon, a pig (Francis Bacon), deer and bats, as well as the more traditional dogs and a pair of kittens named Yin and Yang.
The stories in The Octopus Has Three Hearts combine vivid characters and original premises with Rose’s trademark combination of whimsy and irony to explore universal elements of the human condition, from parenthood to sexuality, identity to fidelity. It is a collection that will appeal to animal lovers, readers of literary fiction and anyone looking for their place to belong.