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March 16, 2018 at 11:21 AM EDT

Dog lovers might want to have the heartbreaking, century-spanning novel Tomorrow on their radar for their next discovery.

The book by Damien Dibben (The History Keepers) begins on winter’s night in 1815 Venice as a 217-year-old dog named Tomorrow is searching for his lost master. Tomorrow must travel through the courts and battlefields of Europe — and through the centuries — in search of the man who granted him immortality. His adventures take him to the London Frost Fair, the strange court of King Charles I, the wars of the Spanish succession, Versailles, the golden age of Amsterdam, and to 19th century Venice.

His is a story of loyalty and determination, as Tomorrow befriends both animals and humans, falls in love (only once), marvels at the human ability to make music, despairs at their capacity for war, and gains insight into both the strength and frailties of the human spirit. But Tomorrow’s journey is also a race against time. Danger stalks his path, and in the shadows lurks an old enemy. Tomorrow must find his master before their pursuer can reach him and his master disappears forever.

“More than anything, I’d say Tomorrow is a love story between a master and his dog,” Dibben says of the book in the official trailer (above). “There’s no two animals on the planet who share such a relationship as humans and dogs.”

Generating comparisons to A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s JourneyTomorrow is already receiving strong reviews ahead of its March 20 release. Watch the trailer, exclusive to EW, above, and check out an exclusive excerpt below. You can pre-order Tomorrow here.

Hanover Square Press

Excerpt from “Tomorrow,” by Damian Dibben

Venice, 1688–1815,
the hundred and twenty-seven years I have spent waiting

It’s extraordinary how whole decades can pass as if in a dream, how one hour can turn like a hundred years and a hundred years like one hour. To begin with, I never strayed from the steps of the cathedral. Not having my alcove then, I camped wherever I could find shelter, butted against the walls of the customs house, beneath the window ledges of the church or ensconced on nearby skiffs and gondolas—anywhere as long as I had a view of the front of the church. ‘If we lose one another, my champion, wait for me on the steps. Just here, by the door.’ I turned my nose to every shoe and boot that passed, thousands upon thousands of them, the dull and banal odors of other humans, not my master’s vital scent: midnight in a tall forest, stiff parchment paper, a whisper of pine sap.

In those first years, I dreaded, above all else, the onslaught of winter, weeks of grey drizzle smudging the city, the first chimneys lit, before the chill set in, making the canals smoke and cobblestones sweat with frost. And then, in the bitterest weeks, in the darkest vale of the season, humans would put on masks, grotesque versions of their real faces and flap through the city like giant insects, congregating behind quickly closing doors, as orchestras struck up in unseen halls. In those weeks, however tightly I curled up to sleep, the flagstones stayed cold beneath me, the chill would insinuate my bones and the same twitchy nightmare would haunt my slumber: a babble of sightseers, silhouettes and periwigs, sweet smoke and swinging thurible. And always, when I woke, teeth chattering and eyes sore, a fresh charge would fire through me, and I’d stand, fur prickling hot and cold.

No, he never came. I never saw him, smelt him. I never felt him.

Eventually, I had the idea to leave the island and search elsewhere. I’d learnt from my master how to travel, how to navigate by the sun, who instinctively to trust and who to be wary of. I did not have gold to pay my way, but I could charm a wagoner. Humans possess a fascination for our species, and an innate kindness that they do not always have for each other. I thought of all the places my master and I had been long ago, but being perpetual wanderers, there was nowhere I could call home, no particular place to begin my search. My master never spoke, as all other people did at some point, of the place he grew up, or his ‘family.’ Only once, in all our time together, when we went into hiding in the Carpathian Mountains after fleeing Holland, did I hear him mention the words ‘mother’ and ‘father.’ There was never mention of ‘sisters’ or ‘brothers.’ He had that self-contained quality that only children have. But neither were there ‘aunts,’ ‘uncles’ or ‘cousins,’ no ‘relations,’ or ‘ancestral seat,’ or ‘birthplace.’

And he hadn’t married either. Despite the fact he’d fallen in love, I was sure, more than once. Despite the fact he was always more comfortable with women than with men, that he appreciated them on a profound level, talked more to them, shared confidences and fears that he’d never admit to his own sex. But of course it didn’t give him, or I, any comfort at all that he would need to end any liaison before it had fully come to life—and I knew why: his sense of right and wrong demanded it. So, there was no specific place to go, which he and I had made our home. And besides—

‘If we lose one another, my champion, wait for me on the steps. Just here, by the door.’

I delayed time and time again but one morning when the agony of inaction, of not knowing, became too fierce, I crept on to a ship unnoticed. My heart banged as the last of the cargo was loaded and the boat readied to set sail. ‘Tomorrow we begin again,’ I reassured myself. For a moment I was emboldened, then straight away terrified. I jumped ashore as the gangplank was being raised, hurried back to the church, thrilled with relief for not having left. For once, the sweet smoke inside gave me a punch of hope, a connection with him, but on visiting the side chapel, with its painting of the slayed giant, now with its colors slightly faded, and finding the room bare, the taste grew acrid again. For hours, even into the night, I snouted the front steps, up and down, up and down, checking and double checking until I thought I would lose my mind. There was not so much as an atom of him. But I never let it enter my mind that he wouldn’t come back, that he might be dead, that he might not exist anymore.

One day, some years after I lost my master, a young man passed that I recognized, the musketeer son of a duke with whom my master had been friends in the decade before we came to Venice. I’d almost forgotten the idyllic summer we’d spent, between our campaigns, in their palazzo at Lake Garda for the young man’s marriage. The whole family had so doted on me, they’d joked of kidnapping. And there he was in Venice, with his father still, both unchanged. I followed them barking, until the old duke stopped, peered round and I realized my mistake. He was the son, the once musketeer, his visage sunken and shriveled with age, its vigor gone and a muddle of irritation in its place. His moustache, once acrobatic with expression, the badge of an intrepid adventurer, was painted on now, and not well, one side shorter than the other. He stared at me, baffled, before the young man, who I’d never met, put his hand to his father’s shoulder to ease him on his way.

No one noticed me. Why should they? I was just a dog like any other. Only I knew the obscure secret of my age.

 

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