Review of “You Will Have a Black Labrador”
“You Will Have a Black Labrador” is a collection of essays written by Nino Gugunishvili. Each of the ten is a delightful vignette, but the three that struck me most are A Long Story of a Short Hair, A Family Album, and Make Me an Omelette.
In A Long Story of a Short Hair, Gugunishvili’s stream of consciousness writing pulls me right in, in spite of the somewhat awkward title of this piece (I’m not sure the “a” adds anything and would have preferred the title “A Long Story of Short Hair”). I do love the story, though – the insight into how every generation has its own version of what every woman wants to look like, and how those opinions are so heavily influenced by the most popular singers and actresses of that generation’s time. Marilyn Monroe, Farrah Fawcett, Jennifer Aniston.
I wanted to know who the French singer was that the narrator’s mother and all her mother’s friends tried to emulate, and the name of the actress in the movie French Kiss, so that I could visualize the hair better. Their names were never mentioned (I looked up the movie French Kiss and the leading lady was Meg Ryan – you’ll thank me when you read the story because it works so much better knowing that, and although I’m sure some reader’s will already know that, some won’t). All in all, this is a great piece that most women can relate to.
A Family Album is about how photographs tell the stories of our lives, but how sometimes when we see old pictures of ourselves, we don’t feel like we are still that person. I love this theme. I love how relatable it is, and how it connects us all. We’re all aging and changing and evolving, and we all have our own beliefs as to who we are and who we used to be.
At the end she says there is no author picture in the book on her mother’s shelf – the narrator’s novel. The significance of this statement seems huge, but somehow lost. I wasn’t clear why the author did not include her photo in the back of her book. (I’m also not sure it’s all that unusual for an author to not have their photo in their books). I think the author’s intent was for the lack of photo on her book jacket to represent something about not feeling like she is the person in any of her photographs, but I’m speculating because the meaning is not entirely clear to me, and yet, as I said, it comes across as having great significance. Overall, I loved this story, I just wish the ending had been explored more.
Make Me an Omelette is a great little story about the importance of food in many cultures and families, and how, within those cultures, certain skills (like cooking) are not achievements to be praised but are instead skills women are simply expected to master. I also loved the insight into how sometimes our families can not see what it is that we see as being special about our chosen partner.
I do have to say, the opening scene with boiling the salted eggs was a little confusing for me. I wasn’t sure why this caused her to have to clean the entire kitchen. There are a few other instances like this throughout the stories where it reads a bit awkwardly, or where a wrong word is used, or a meaning isn’t completely clear, but this is highly understandable considering the author is from Georgia (the country, not the state). Honestly, I’m always amazed when people from non-English speaking countries can figure out our language at all. But I do think these stories would have benefitted from an edit by someone whose first language is English, just to smooth out the rough bits. That said, Nino Gugunishvili’s writing is captivating, endearing, and relatable. I love her voice, her ideas, her insights.
If you’re looking for a good collection of stories on the shorter side (most are just a few pages and could easily be read in a waiting room, on a train or bus, or before bed), that will make you think about life and all of its complexities, grab yourself a copy of “You Will Have a Black Labrador”.
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Great review Shannon. Sounds like a great read.