Tag Archives: Carolyn Parkhurst

Eight Great Books About Dogs

 

Eight Great Books About DogsHere it is, late August. Hazy hot and humid seesaws with crisp and cool, a sign that summer is tapping fall on the shoulder, the annual game of tag you’re it.

The dog days of summer, they are. Nightfall comes earlier now. The evening performance of the cicada orchestra is unfailingly on time. Local blueberries are no longer in season; once plump and juicy, they are now unpleasantly sour and soon will be gone until next year.

If it sounds like I’m in an end-of-summer funk, it’s true.

But dog days remind me of dogs, and that cheers me up. If you love dogs, and even if you think you don’t and might be persuaded to, here are some really good books about canines you might want to try.

Warning: weeping may happen.

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein

In a flashback, Enzo the dog reflects upon the ten years of his life with Denny, a semi-professional race car driver, Denny’s wife Eve, and their baby daughter Zoe. Since Enzo believes he will come back in his next life at a human, he is a keen observer of the human condition. No lie, you will be a soggy mess at the end.

The Dogs of Babel, Carolyn Parkhurst

How many times I’ve wondered what my dog would say if it could talk. When Paul’s wife Lexy dies in an accident, Lorelei, a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, is the only witness. Grief-stricken and haunted with questions, Paul attempts to teach Lorelei to talk so that she can communicate what happened. You will tear up for humans and dogs alike.

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog, John Grogan

The subtitle clues you in about Marley, a big galumph of a dog whose antics and foibles take over the lives of John and Jenny. Equal parts humor and pathos, this book will delight anyone who has seen both the worst and the best in their dogs and loves them just the same. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the Cry-o-meter: off the scale.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski

Hamlet is retold with tail-wagging canines as the characters. Edgar is the mute son of a family that breeds a special variety of dogs, Sawtelle dogs. Edgar has an uncanny sense of communication with these dogs and is able to get to the bottom of a murder mystery with their help. Have tissues at the ready.

A Dog’s Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron

Buddy the existential dog is the narrator in this novel as he tries to understand why he is here. Author Cameron totally gets the essence of dogs and Buddy’s voice is genuine. As if I haven’t showered my dogs with endless affection, now I religiously tack on a “good dog” several times a day. This book will soon be released by Dreamworks as a movie and I can not wait. Expect a cascade of tears.

A Dog’s Journey, W. Bruce Cameron

Thank God Cameron wrote a sequel, because I could not bear to think that Buddy’s story was over. More smiles and tears with this book, just as wonderful as the first. I kid you not, the sobs started in the first chapter.

Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself, Julie Barton

When her life came crashing down on her at age 22, Julie could not find a way out of her depression. Not therapy, not medication, not moving back into her parents’ home. But when she and the Golden Retriever puppy Bunker found each other, her world became brighter. Sniffles throughout for Julie and Bunker.

Good Dog. Stay., Anna Quindlen

A sweet, funny, poignant tribute to her big old Black Labrador Beau, this memoir can be read in a single, joyful sitting. Among the words of wisdom is this: “Occasionally someone will tell me that they won’t have pets because they are messy … the truth is that we were far messier without dogs than with them.” I love that. Tears and hiccups.

Have you read these? What other books about dogs have you read and loved?

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Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony is that rare novel that hits my trifecta of an amazing read: compelling family drama, dark humor and heart pounding suspense.

Book Buzz: Harmony

Harmony

Written with storytelling skill and compassion by Carolyn Parkhurst, whose The Dogs of Babel was a huge favorite of mine, Harmony is about modern day parenting and the lengths we will go to in order to do right by our children.

It is about the pressure we put on ourselves as parents, the struggle to succeed at parenting and the scrutiny from society, the disapproval, that makes us doubt ourselves.

Alexandra and Josh Hammond, a middle-class couple living in Washington, DC, have two daughters. Tilly, age 12, is a precocious, creative child who happens to be on the autism spectrum. Iris, age 10, is the “normal” one.

The parents agonize over Tilly’s special needs. Her behavioral issues get her kicked out of every school. People stare at her. Children point fingers. Desperate to find the right school, the right therapy, Alexandra doggedly pursues every option, only to come up short. As Tilly’s extreme behavior dominates their lives, Alexandra despairs that Tilly’s issues will only get worse and it will be her fault, her failing as a parent.

My heart sank for this couple. I felt their frustration, their searing anger when other “normal” children made fun of their daughter. Wouldn’t I search everywhere for help as they did?

And if I were at the end of my rope with no stone left unturned, would I also surrender myself to an alternative therapy endorsed by a self-proclaimed parenting expert named Scott Bean whom I am convinced understands my child like no one else? Would I also persuade my husband to sell our house and possessions to follow this cult-like messiah into the wilderness, to a place called Camp Harmony, with just us, our children and a carload of belongings?

Recounted alternately by Alexandra and Iris, the plot thickens as the Hammonds become one of three families, each having a special needs child, to inhabit this experimental society in a rustic setting where communication to the outside world is cut off.

Will Scott Bean’s parenting theories put into action make a difference in the lives of these children? Will the parents of these children finally get the answers they have searched for, the answers that will lead to their children’s happiness and growth?

As the experiment slowly takes on a sinister shadowing, the tension builds  and … well, I’m not going to tell you any more. Let’s just say it elicited more than one OMG from me.

I don’t have a child on the spectrum. But after reading Harmony, I am more enlightened about what it means to live with a child who relates to the world differently but is no less of a person, whose potential can be discovered with love and patience, whose families deserve our respect and support.

Harmony captivated me from page one. I loved it.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Harmony. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of Harmony from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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