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'Dog Boy' unleashes a haunting, heartfelt tale

| Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Dog Boy" sounds like a headline from a trashy magazine that you see in the grocery checkout line.

But rest assured, it's quite the opposite. This novel, about a young boy named Romochka who grows up with a pack of feral dogs, will break your heart.

Abandoned by his mother and uncle, Romochka ventures out of the safety of his apartment building into the dangerous streets of Moscow. Cold and hungry, he follows a stray dog to her lair, where he's accepted as one of the pack.

Nursing from the mother dog, whom he calls Mamochka, and huddling with the rest of the litter for warmth, he not only survives that brutal winter, but many more. Eventually, the boundary between being human and dog fades. Still, Ramochka can't ignore the attraction to his own kind and finds himself seeking out their company.

His strange behavior and appearance attracts unwanted attention, first from the vicious military police, then from curious scientists.

Eva Hornung treads the well-worn theme of feral children using careful, sparse detail to illustrate Ramochka's wide-eyed innocence. Her spell breaks when the point of view suddenly switches to the two scientists who want to study Ramochka, but otherwise, this is a wonderfully written, haunting read.

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