Russell has taken Flaubert's novel, Madame Bovary, and re-told the story from the dog Djali's POV with some shifting. In many ways, the story is Emma's but experienced by Djali. Djali had tried to be happy and at times was until she escaped. There are many wonderful sentences and Djali's point of view is compelling.
In the second section, Emma and Djali become depressed and "to the baffled Dr. Bovary, seemed bewitched by sadness."
In the third section, Djali daydreams how she might have been able to have a different owner and different life which parallels Emma's desires. The Bovary's plan to move and Djali runs free.
In the fourth and fifth sections, Djali's new life in the wild is in vast contrast with her earlier life with Emma. Djali is exposed to things she's never experienced. However, "…had the winds changed at that particular moment and carried a certain woman's lilac-scented sweat to her, this story might have had a very different ending." I like that a mere breeze could have altered Djali's fate.
Djali mirrors Emma's pain for another, "…unable to cure her need for a human…"
The POV shifts to Emma and her lover Rodolphe. In section VI, Djali falls into a ravine and breaks her leg. Rodolphe ends his affair with Emma via a note. And, Djali is rescued by a game warden and renames her Hubert. Five years pass. Emma Bovary happens to attend a mourning at Hubert's mother's grave. Emma sees a greyhound, Djali, but has no idea or even remembers her old dog. However, Djali recognizes Emma. "Something bubbled and broke inside the creature's heart." Emma almost remembers. I like to think that Djali obeys her own sit command choosing Hubert her master. However, it could be read either way.
"Lumped in the coverlet, Charles's blocky legs tangled around her in an apprehensive pretzel, a doomed attempt to hold her in their marriage bed."
"Fleas held wild circuses on Djali's ass as she lay motionless before the fire for the duration of two enormous logs, unable to summon the energy to spin a hind leg in protest."
"Undeliberate, absolved of rue and intent, the dog continued to forget Madame Bovary."
"…a spill of jeweled rot like boiling cranberries."
"And then the dog remembered, too, calloused hands brushing dead leaves from her fur, clearing the seams of blackflies from her eyelids and nostrils, lifting her from the trench."
Karen Russell was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. "Madame Bovary's Greyhound" was published in Zoetrope: All-Story, Summer 2013, Volume 17, Number 2.
Karen Russell, Wikipedia
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
New Yorker, conversation with Karen Russell