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Lily and the Octopus
By Steven Rowley

Discussed May 2017

Buy Lily and the Octopus from

Cast of Characters:

  • Edward “Ted” Flask
  • Lily – Ted’s first love and dachshund
  • The Octopus
  • Trent – the best friend from Texas (and only friend)
  • Trent’s bulldog, Weezie
  • Jeffery – the ex after a six year relationship
  • Meridith – his only sister
  • Ted’s Mother
  • Jenny – psychotherapist
  • Ted’s imaginary male therapist
  • Kal – Tattoo philosopher
  • Blind Dates: The hugger – two dates, No kids, Sex Addict, Byron
  • The Sharks

The Questions:

1 - Obligatory first questions: Did you finish the book? Did you like it? Why/Why not?

2 – This book contains imaginary characters, magical creatures and elements, and even an imaginary universe. Does this book fall in the fantasy category? Why or why not?

3 – The book is divided into eight parts. An octopus has eight legs. The theme of eight is constant throughout. Did this work for you? Did you notice it? How did the theme of eight help the book?


4 - Do you have animals? Do you “talk” for them? Is Ted’s interaction with Lily endearing, amusing, disturbing, or a combination of all three? Does Ted hear voices? How is it that Lily talks to him? Is this different than when he confers with the shark squad? What about the other dachshunds when he drops Lily off for her first boarding? Why does Ted constantly tell Lily stories of her life, often repeating them over and over?

5 - Unconditional love is what a dog is all about, and what Ted and Lily’s relationship is all about. What about other relationships that Ted has in the book? How many people are really in Ted’s life anyway? Why is that?


6 - Edward “Ted” Flask is no stranger to therapy. What was the reason for his early sessions? Why is he in therapy with Jenny during the time frame of this book? Who is more effective, Jenny or the “imaginary and much smarter therapist” in Ted’s mind? What is Ted’s neuroticism all about anyway?

7 - At the end of the therapy session, the imaginary therapist sets him straight about the hugger date and Ted realizes that he “has to be better about living in the not-knowing.” What does this mean?

8 - Los Angeles is described as a “Neverland of Lost Boys who preen and crow far too often and demonstrate substance far too seldom.” Are Ted and Trent lost boys? How similar/different are Ted and Trent? What does this say of Ted’s maturity? What are the significances of Kipling, Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, Melville, and all the movie and book references throughout the story?


9 – What did you think about the list (Just a Dandy-Lion) of eight cowardly things and one courageous moment? P69/70

10 - Lily’s first brush with death, the spinal injuries, cost Ted $6,000. What else did it cost him? Was there anything good that came out of it? Does Ted’s relationship with his family change over the course of the story? How?


11 - Ted meets Trent in the not-gay-anymore bar. What does this scene tell Ted about his life? New Jenny also appears in this section and challenges Ted. What has changed, Ted or the others?

12 - How does Enclosed World Syndrome apply to Lily? To Ted?

13 - Lily asks about her nicknames, why so many? How do nicknames play a role in the book? How does Ted feel about being “That Guy”? How about Dad? This is where they discuss what to do about the Octopus, Lily’s options. Does Ted begin to own the problem at this point?


14 - Ted talks about “becoming the Octopus” several times in the book. Is Ted the Octopus throughout? Does he become the Octopus? What does Kal, the philosopher tattooist offer to the story here?

15 - Let’s talk about the Octopus. At this point in the story, the octopus has developed a personality and a voice. How much of this is Ted? Is there something else? Does the octopus’s calmness come from the fact that the end result is inevitable?


16 - The Pelagic Zone Boat Scenes – what are the significance of them? Did they happen? Were they a necessary part of Ted’s process? What did you think about Lily’s deftness with the harpoon, the noose, and the fileting knife? Is their fight together against the octopus a turning point for Ted? What is the significance of this battle?


17 - What does the RED BALL mean? Does it mean the same thing to Ted as it does to Lily? At the end, Ted loses Lily in a sea of red balls. What does this mean to Ted? To you, the reader?


18 - Why did Rowley choose Byron as the name for the guy that may win Ted’s heart at the end? Did you get a sense of closure with this ending?

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