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December 11, 2020

Review: Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog by Lauren Fern Watt

The playful, epic adventure of a 160-pound English Mastiff and the twentysomething girl who grew up alongside her—Marley & Me for a whole new generation.

Lauren Watt took her 160-pound English Mastiff to college—so of course after graduation, Gizelle followed Lauren to her first, tiny apartment in New York. Because Gizelle wasn’t just a dog; she was a roommate, sister, confidante, dining companion, and everything in between.

Together, Gizelle and Lauren went through boyfriends, first jobs, a mother’s struggle with addiction, and the ups and downs of becoming an adult in the big city. But when Gizelle got sick and Lauren realized her best friend might not be such a constant after all, she designed an epic bucket list to make the absolute most of the time they had left.

Bursting with charm, this unique, coming-of-age story of a girl making her way through life is a testament to the special way pets inspire us to live better, love better, and appreciate the simple pleasures. Gizelle’s Bucket List is the humorous, poignant lesson our pets teach us: to embrace adventure, love unconditionally, and grow into the people we want to be.

               As both a dog lover, and as an owner of a Mastiff, I knew with one hundred percent certainty after reading the synopsis for Giselle’s Bucket List that this is the kind of memoir that would bring me to tears. And, surprise, surprise— that’s exactly what it did. Big, bad, ugly tears that are somehow satisfying. Everything about Giselle’s Bucket List was honest and emotional, and certainly an original experience.

I’ve personally never been a big fan of memoir pieces, mainly because I feel that the few I’ve read have been unsuccessful in one way or another. However, Giselle’s Bucket List moved me in ways that a memoir hasn’t been able to move me before. Maybe it’s because dogs are my weakness, or maybe it’s because Watt’s writing brings every scene to life, but I quickly became invested in this tragic story. Watching an owner spend her last months with her beloved pet was bittersweet and beautiful. Embracing the end of a pet’s life is an inevitability, and even now, thinking about Lauren’s experiences with Giselle makes my throat feel thick with tears.

                All of that being said, the writing quality for Giselle’s Bucket List is really top-notch. Every scene was alive and realistic, and made me grow attached to not only the narrator, but also her relationship with Giselle. The way Giselle was described and written also felt pretty spot on, considering what I know of my own experiences with a large dog. She was also a character that I grew attached to, and I hated knowing throughout reading that this was a story that would go without a happy ending.

                This is the kind of story that all animal lovers should read. There is no doubting that this is a well-written memoir with a heart wrenching plot. Anyone that picks up Giselle’s Bucket List would find themselves with a new outlook on their relationship with their pets, and their pet’s mortality. Also, you should be ready to go into Watt’s novel with a box of tissues at the ready, because once the tears start flowing prepare for them to essentially never stop.

                I would recommend Giselle’s Bucket List to all pet-owners, any readers who are looking for a well-written, emotional memoir should also give it a try. To any readers who are looking for a novel that is bittersweet and that will give you a good cry, this is the read for you.

Lauren Fern Watt is an author, writer, producer and world traveler. Her memoir Gizelle’s Bucket List: My Life with a Very Large Dog has been translated into nineteen languages and optioned for film by Madison Wells Media. Her new book, Treat, Play, Love: 101 Adventures for Dogs (and their humans) will be published spring 2021 with Chronicle Books. Lauren is an ambassador for Shatterproof, a national nonprofit working to end the devastation addiction causes families. Her work has been published in the LA Times, Cosmopolitan, Refinery 29, Matador Network, among others. Originally from Nashville, she graduated from the University of Tennessee and currently resides in Los Angeles. She can often be found traveling around the world with her best friend, a rescue basenji mix named Bette.

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