If you have ever wondered what a gritty and meanly funny version of Marley and Me would look like, Pilar Quintana’s The Bitch has you covered. It is the story of Damaris, who gets a dog. Damaris lives with husband Rogelio on a Colombian hillside, surviving off fishing and keeping house for absentee homeowners. Wife and husband long for a baby that will never come.
At first, Chirli, as the dog comes to be named, seems like the perfect opportunity for Damaris to refocus some maternal energy. But before long, Chirli does as dogs do -- she dirties things, runs off, and has puppies she mostly ignores, all to the chagrin of Damaris, whose expectations are increasingly at odds with reality.
Stories about rambunctious dogs usually end with tear-jerking lessons learned. What makes The Bitch so good is Quintana’s subversion of those cliches and the steadfast unsentimentality of her prose and tone, right through to the book’s disquieting finish.