Houston spends half her time in Colorado and half as the director of the creative writing program at UC Davis, but her writing reflects a quirky sensibility Bay Area readers no doubt will find familiar. She did live in these parts at one time, a period memorialized in her autobiographical short-story collection Waltzing the Cat
. Houston's gift is her ability to make the personal seem universal. Sure, she may be focused on her own navel, but the way she tells the story, a navel has never seemed so funny or fascinating. Sight Hound
, the latest of her four books, is also her first novel, for which she clearly draws a lot of material from her own life. The story is told by a rotating cast of narrators. That's not an uncommon literary device, but here two dogs and a cat get to tell their sides of the story. The main dog narrator, three-legged Irish wolfhound Dante, quotes Buddha and Goethe and believes his role is in this life is "to teach my human that she deserve[s] to be loved," certainly a theme that East Bay pet "guardians" can embrace. For those of us who've spent more in a year on vet bills than we have on our own health care, Houston's book is a gem.