**spoiler alert** I'm finding that I can't write about how this book made me feel without talking about what happens in it. And I mean every major plo...more**spoiler alert** I'm finding that I can't write about how this book made me feel without talking about what happens in it. And I mean every major plot point, not just the ending. What makes this a four star book isn't that the prose is particularly good or that I learned anything profound about myself or the world in which I live. It's the story, and these two characters, and the things that happen to them, and to say what that means, I have to talk about spoilers. So I'm marking this whole review as a spoiler, and if you continue to read on - if you click that little link - then on your own head be it.
(view spoiler)[This book did not end the way I wanted it to. I really want to hate it for that, to be totally pissed off at it for manipulating me into rooting for these characters and then rip out my heart at the end. But I just keep thinking of a quote from The Silver Linings Playbook: "Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly."
And that is so true. Sometimes, life just plain sucks. Sometimes, you are rich and handsome and vibrant and happy and then you get hit by an asshole on a motorcycle and end up a quadriplegic. Sometimes, you get to live in a town with one of those beautiful English castles and then one night, you get a little drunk and a little high and before you know it, you're being gang raped by a bunch of frat boys in the middle of a maze. Sometimes, you can go on a fabulous dream vacation with the man you love and on the last night you get in a huge fight and it ruins the whole experience. Sometimes, the boy doesn't get the girl. And sometimes, the boy does get the girl, but he chooses death anyway.
I knew how it was going to end. I'd accidentally seen a spoiler in a Goodreader's review. I had not been warned repeatedly, as you have, that the review would have details about the ending. And yet, even though I knew what was going to happen, I couldn't help but hope I'd read it wrong. As Louisa kept hoping that she'd change Will's mind, that this would be the outing that turned it all around, I also kept hoping right alongside her.
I'm not going to make any judgments or statements on the ethics or moral question of euthanasia. I really don't think, as a reader, it matters whether you think it is right or wrong. What matters is the way these two characters are able to touch and change each other.
And, yes, the supporting cast are all cookie-cutter and cliche: The sibling who's always overshadowed the heroine; the beautiful ex-girlfriend; the boyfriend who is such a fitness fanatic that he really only serves to be the polar opposite of a paralyzed man; the daffy parents. And yes, some of it is just too precious and contrived, like the family of the disabled person being so fabulously wealthy that money is no object when considering his treatment or the efforts to give him the will to live. His money even makes for a nice, tidy little epilogue where the money he leaves to Lou magically solves all her problems, except for the one where the love of her life commits suicide in her arms. That part actually does piss me off a little, as I know some real-life families who have to struggle and figure out how to make ends meet while paying for the care of a disabled family member, and remodeling their houses to be wheelchair accessible, and buying a car with a chair lift, etc., and the insurance money doesn't even begin to cover it. But I suppose if this book had focused on those very real struggles, we would have been distracted from the will-they-or-won't-they drama of two people falling in love. These are the reasons this book is not five stars.
But the fact remains that I did not want to put this book down. I stayed up way too late last night reading, and after I made myself turn out the light I still lay in bed thinking about this story. Today at work, I had the Kindle app on my phone open so I could sneak in a paragraph whenever I could. And when I finished, I just sat for a while and cried. (hide spoiler)](less)
Everyone thinks they know the best way. The best way to raise children, the best way to raise pets, the best way to do everything. I've heard a lot of...moreEveryone thinks they know the best way. The best way to raise children, the best way to raise pets, the best way to do everything. I've heard a lot of dog owners very pompously tell me, for example, that they only give their dogs raw food because dogs don't have kibble in the wild. People also have very strong opinions on child rearing. Everything from breastfeeding to spanking to letting your child sleep in bed with you seems to be controversial, and many parents have absolutely no qualms about telling you that the way they do it is right and the way you do it is wrong. Most of the time, though, the person being told didn't ask for the opinion of the person doing the telling.
When you write a book - an autobiographical book - you are, essentially, asking for your reader's opinion. Therefore, I don't feel bad about saying that this author is a nutcase. She is doing no favors for herself or her child or for her dogs.
1. She can't leave her dog at doggie daycare, because he's too well housebroken and he won't pee. Also, he doesn't want to play with the other dogs. She can't leave him alone in her apartment all day, so she quits her job.
2. The dog goes to restaurants with her, and sits at the table, in a chair, like a person. I think this is meant to be cute, but it isn't.
3. The first dog dies when she is pregnant with her first child. She knows she shouldn't get a puppy, but she does anyway.
4. The new dog is a girl, and the author says there is "some debate" on when it is best to spay. What debate? If you're going to spay, you do it before the dog's first heat. It significantly reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, according to my vet. Where is she getting her information from? Anyway, she doesn't spay the dog soon enough and the dog, who sleeps in their bed, gets her period. They don't want to dog to bleed all over their bed, so they put her in a crate in the living room. A crate the dog has NEVER used before. Of course the dog cries all night, so she ends up DUCT TAPING A DIAPER ON THE DOG and letting it in the bed with her.
5. She decides to volunteer with a Boston Terrier rescue, but the woman who runs the rescue says she can't foster a dog because she has a toddler, and it isn't safe since they don't know how the dogs would be with children. But then there is a doggie emergency, and she gets a foster dog. The foster dog, apparently, is the devil and bites everyone (this seems to be a theme - all her dogs bite. I asked around to some people I know with Boston Terriers and they say it is not an aggressive breed. So why do all her dogs bite? Could it be they need training?). When the dog bites her daughter, she finally decides that the dog has to go.
6. Lack of training is a problem. She talks about how she brought a trainer in to work with her first dog, and the trainer brought some little training treats. But then the trainer saw a plate with all these little treats (including deli meat) sitting out. She asks the author what that is, and the reply is "his snack tray." The trainer points out that she can't train a dog using treats when he has his own buffet.
7. The separation anxiety isn't just a problem with the dogs. When she takes her child to pre-K for the first time, the child cries. So she stays in the hall outside the child's classroom for the entire day. And this happens again, and again, and again. Cut that umbilical cord already!
8. The daughter does not want the dogs around. Probably because she senses that mommy loves the dogs more than her. She and her husband agree that they shouldn't foster any more dogs, because it's too upsetting to the daughter, but that only lasts a few months and then they're back to rescuing the dogs.
Look. I love my dog. I talk to her like I expect her to talk back. I let her sleep on my bed. I stopped giving her people food when she started getting too fat because an extra 10 lbs on her is very dangerous to her health. But dogs also need discipline. They need to know that you are the leader of their pack. This woman was clearly way too indulgent with both her dogs and her child.
Also, I know this is a book about her dogs. But it would have been nice for a little information to fill in the gaps. When we first meet the author, she is single and lonely. Then, suddenly, she is married and pregnant. She's working part time, then she quits, then she's suddenly a published writer. How did these things happen?
This book starts off very slowly and yet some things seemed to happen too quickly. Mrs. Ali calls on the Major and all at once he is smitten in love w...moreThis book starts off very slowly and yet some things seemed to happen too quickly. Mrs. Ali calls on the Major and all at once he is smitten in love with her. It seemed very abrupt. I found the Major's obsession with his father's rifles completely boring, until the ending, when they turned out to be a metaphor for learning what is truly important in life. It reminded me of my mugging, and how at first I was so upset by the loss of my stuff that I forgot to be glad I wasn't harmed.
Although it took me a very long time to get into this, I ended up enjoying the last two-thirds of it. (less)
Having spent two of my formative years in North Carolina, I can tell you that racism and classism are still very much alive in the Deep South. Fortuna...moreHaving spent two of my formative years in North Carolina, I can tell you that racism and classism are still very much alive in the Deep South. Fortunately, we've come a long way, but there is still a long way to go.
But this book is about so much more than the way maids were treated in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. It's more than a story of how the Junior League president ruled the lives of pretty much everyone in town. Mostly, it is a story about doing something. Taking action. Trying to change the status quo. Recognizing that we aren't so different from one another. And when we embrace that, just at look what can happen. (less)