Roam: A Novel with Music
by Alan Lazar

Published: 2011-11-01
Hardcover : 336 pages
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"Nelson's adventures on the fringe are fascinating... a touching page-turner..."—Publishers Weekly

"...debut novelist Lazar crafts a good one. He captures the interior and exterior lives of humans and dogs (and even wolves) with a sure hand."—Library Journal

"A canine version of ...

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"Nelson's adventures on the fringe are fascinating... a touching page-turner..."—Publishers Weekly

"...debut novelist Lazar crafts a good one. He captures the interior and exterior lives of humans and dogs (and even wolves) with a sure hand."—Library Journal

"A canine version of Black Beauty"—Kirkus Reviews

They say you never forget your first love . . .

Born under a sparkling crescent moon, Nelson is a bright-eyed, inquisitive half beagle, half poodle. He lives with Katey and Don, newlyweds whose marriage is straining under the pressures of domesticity, but Katey's devotion to Nelson buoys the pup even as he worries his home may be falling apart.

But there are few things Nelson likes better than to follow a scent, and one day he follows his nose and gets lost . . . very lost. Though he searches frantically for Katey?and she for him?Nelson can?t seem to find his way home, and he soon realizes that if he's ever to see his great love again, he must make his way on his own and try to survive in the wild.

Over the course of eight years, Roam follows Nelson as he crosses the country searching for his family. For a time he rides shotgun with a truck driver named Thatcher, then he lives in the woods with a pack of wolves. A terrible accident takes his hind leg, but Nelson's strength and longing to find Katey keep him alive. Escaping death in a shelter, Nelson grows into an old dog with a cynical eye and a world-weary demeanor, but underneath it all, a fearless and courageous spirit. After all, he believes that one day he?ll make it home . . . and maybe, just maybe, he will. . . .

Much more than the story of one dog's incredible journey, this is a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love, which once again confirms the unbreakable bond between humans and their best friends. In the tradition of The Art of Racing in the Rain and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Roam is an unforgettable tale of love lost and found, the trials that test families, and an affirmation that no matter how far or how long you may travel, there's always a place you can call home.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


!e first thing Nelson smelled was grass. Rich, beautiful, mysterious
grass. It wafted in from the pastures outside Mrs. Anderson’s
farmhouse, where Nelson and his brothers and sisters
lay wriggling, close to their mother. His small nose wrinkled,
perplexed by this powerful new stimulus. When he was in his
mother’s womb, he had whiffed it in the distance as his nose’s
power expanded exponentially. But when the full power of grass
hit him out in the world, it was scary, intoxicating, and deeply
!e smell had many layers to it. As the years went by, Nelson
would learn to discern the meaning of those multiple deep
scents. !ey held information about the day—which creatures
had walked nearby and left their mark, how much dew there
had been that morning, and hints of the distant meadows where
that dew had come from. !ey held information about the rain
two days earlier and about the ants and other bugs that lived in
the grass. But also, deep from within the soil in which it grew,the grass held sometimes murky hints about summers past, and
winters from long ago, about the creatures that had lived and
died in the New Hampshire county where Nelson was born. It
held the history of all the roots and bones that had lain in that
rich soil for centuries.
Nelson was one of a litter of six mutts. In fact, he was not
meant to be a mutt. Mrs. Anderson had bred pedigree beagles
and poodles for many years. Her puppies sold for thousands of
dollars each and were shipped to locations all across America.
Nelson’s mother, Lola, a gentle apricot miniature poodle, had
given birth to several litters of puppies before. Nelson’s father,
King, a beagle much photographed as a perfect specimen at
the annual county fair, was not meant to gain access to Lola’s
compound when she was in heat two months earlier. He had
successfully impregnated Nougat, another beagle, several times,
and Mrs. Anderson adored him. But she had planned for Lola
to breed with her normal mate, Kennedy, a dark brown poodle
with a warm heart. She had no idea that King had been
bewitched by Lola’s rich bouquet as it wafted from her kennel
the previous spring. Noticing the beginnings of a small hole
under the wooden fence surrounding Lola’s kennel, King dug
furiously when Mrs Anderson was not around, and lovemaking
with Lola followed. Mrs. Anderson suspected nothing until
Lola’s pups came out one day looking unlike anything she had
seen. She had a moment of anger when she realized what King
had done. She also had a moment of regret when she realized
that the thousands of dollars she knew she would make from a
pedigree poodle litter was not to be. But when she held Nelson’s
older sister in the palm of her hand and felt the little dog’s heart
beating, her own heart swiftly melted, and she knew she would raise these puppies for the first two months of their lives with all
the love she normally gave to her pedigree pups.
Mrs. Anderson was accustomed to seeing two or three pups
in a poodle litter. Lola gave birth to six this time. Perhaps it was
King’s unrelenting lovemaking to Lola that had caused this anomaly.
!e fragrance of Lola in heat was so utterly compelling that
each time he thought their lovemaking was coming to an end
King somehow felt another burst of energy inside his beagle heart.
!e six puppies that emerged from her small frame surprised
Lola. She was sad when number four lay there, unmoving, after
he emerged. After she ate the small bag of afterbirth that had
protected him in the womb, she licked him again and again, trying
to bring him back to life. Mrs. Anderson watched, praying
for some movement, but after half an hour, and not a sign of life,
she gently pulled the small pup away from Lola and wrapped
him in a white towel. Later that night she would burn his remains
and scatter them in the pastures outside her farmhouse.
She would look up at the crescent moon and pray for the little
dog that had never known the world beyond his mother’s womb.
Lola felt an intangible sadness come over her as she saw her
pup disappear from sight. But she could not be sad for long.
!e convulsions in her stomach started again, and soon enough,
another beautiful puppy emerged into the world. Nelson was
largely light brown, or apricot, with splashes of white, particularly
over his face. A dark brown circle surrounded the one eye,
and a white circle surrounded the other. From an early age this
gave all the impression that he was “wide-eyed” and fascinated
by the world. But at the time of his birth, his eyes were firmly
closed, as they would be for the first week of his life.
His nose twitched excitedly as the smell of grass filled his world for the first time. He felt his mother lick him, and her scent, too,
filled his senses, rich and comforting. Mrs. Anderson entered the
room again, noticed the new puppy and patted him ever so gently
on his small head. And so, he whiffed a human being for the first
time, and that smell, although complex, was also warm and good.
!is was a lot to happen to such a young soul in the first
minutes of his life, and Nelson was suddenly struck by an overwhelming
hunger. His mother saw the quivers in his small body,
and those of her other pups. She pushed and pushed and her
final puppy, Nelson’s little sister, emerged into the world, wriggling
and sniffing. Gently, Mrs. Anderson placed each of the
puppies near Lola’s six nipples, and they wriggled inward toward
their first meal.
... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

• Is ROAM a book about dogs or a book about humans?
• ROAM is told from the point of view of a dog. What was it like to experience a world where smell, and not sight, is the dominant sense?
• Did you enjoy listening to the piano pieces that accompany the book, and how did the music connect with the story?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

From the author:

“For a long time, I wanted to write a book similar to The Alchemist or Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, but with a dog as the protagonist. The idea crystallized when I started seeing many newspaper articles about lost dogs reunited with their owners thanks to chip technology. Then, I lost my dad a few years ago, and that got me thinking a lot about our journey through life. I started writing ROAM shortly afterward.”

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Member Reviews

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  "Are you a sucker for animal books?"by ebach (see profile) 01/30/12

If you love animal books, particularly those about dogs, you’ll probably love ROAM by Alan Lazar. A curious dog roams too far from his “Great Love” (master) and just keeps roaming, enc... (read more)

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