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Walking the Dog

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Former child prodigy and rich-girl kleptomaniac, Ester—renamed into the gentile Carleen for her own protection—is incarcerated after a botched heist. For two decades, time is the enemy. Her twenties and thirties crawl by in stifling isolation. When finally let loose onto the streets of New York, she finds a job wrestling spoiled canines as a dog walker in Manhattan's most ...more
Paperback, 392 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by The Feminist Press at CUNY (first published June 7th 2016)
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  251 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Lets start with a disclaimer: I knew nothing about Elizabeth Swados-I saw the book, read the summary and thought, why not?

Having no idea she was a Pulitzer Prize winner, playwright, childrens' author & Tony winner I dove in thinking, "I love dogs & it sounds a bit eccentric but I'm in the right mood".

Halfway through this book when the main character Ester Rosenthal (aka a gentrified Carleen) describes her life and pathway to crime I almost stopped reading altogether. It was brutal and of
Alexis Tenenbaum
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. Touched me to my core!
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carleen has been in prison for several years, for having planned a hold-up that ended up shooting and killing two police officers. She didn't do it out of a need for money; she had plenty of that. She liked the thrills. She's looking at many more years in prison, being bullied by staff and other inmates, when she's given the chance to train a service dog for a blind person. It's this work that finally springs her free and she works for a dog-walking company.

The narrative is rich in details. We l
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carleen Kepper, formerly Ester Rosenthal, is one of the most unique and complex characters I've ever run across. Within her complexity is artistic genius, emotional instability, and honest reflection on her life and its events. Her job in her forties is walking and training dogs, and they take as large a role in the story as do fellow humans. (I want to meet the giant dog Doorbell.) Her story, from childhood to her forties, is told in chapters that vary in sequence. Swados reveals things with de ...more
Kata Conway
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
What I loved the most was the many deep self realizations the main character had. Some of them she spoke to people and some were just her thoughts or described feelings. One of my favorites was... "I had a moment to myself and felt an emptiness that was not unpleasant. It was like when your high up in an airplane and you look out the window and the sky creates flat blue spaces in between unpredictable white clouds that have nothing to do with rain." They were many, original, and beautiful. The c ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked this story. It took me a few chapters to get into the mind of Carleen (Ester) . The prison warden changed her name because Jewish women go beat up by other inmates looking for money. This book dealt with a lot of Jewish customs and traditions and the Jewish community. Carleen deals much better with dogs than people and uses this talent both in prison and out.
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A very unique and memorable protagonist!
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
A page turner, thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience, particularly love the chapters of various dogs and dog owners, as well as her artist experience. One also gets glimps to a side of life usually unknown, I do wonder how much is fiction and how much is real and how the writer was able to do research on that.
However, only part of the book I really object to is that at time it is overly exaggerated, dramatic or sentimental; and on a lesser level, a certain character is highly annoying.
The b
Stephanie DiBiase
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I could not put it down. It was a hard read, not what I would classify as light reading, but I was sad when it was over and I loved Carleen even though she was hard to love. It’s definitely not a book for everyone, but may the algorithm gods lead you to it if it’s for you.
Debbie Taub
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!
Caroline Kubale
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 A disturbing and violent story but glimpses of hope as well.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
One of the best books I have read lately
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Solid 4. I've never read a book about the healing powers of dogs that I didn't like.
Todd Hunnnicutt
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Very easy to read but so unbelievable in parts that I was rolling my eyes.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most amazing books I have ever read. Her writing is breathtaking
David Jay
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Ester is a brilliant child prodigy, a rich and famous artist who winds up in prison. Upon her release, she becomes a dog walker. That is all you need to know.

The non-linear nature of the story can be confusing but the characters are so rich and the writing is so good it is difficult not to love this book.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am new to Swados and this was a great start. I love the character of Colleen and the unfolding of her story. It is definitely a statement on the prison system and its affect on prisoners. A compelling story that has a satisfying and believable ending.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was my book club's pick for the month and isn't something I would ordinarily read as I'm a historical fiction fanatic. Like others have commented, it took a few chapters to 'get into' the story but I recommend you keep reading. It gets much better. The story is about a teenage art prodigy who gets caught up in her need for a 'fix' of both drugs and crime and what happens to her after her BIG caper goes bust. She's convicted of multiple-murder and ends up in the pen having to deal with ...more
Christa Van
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Carleen Kepper is a convict and a lifer. Although she was not present at the scene of the crime, she was involved in an incident where two cops where killed and one severely injured. It was basically a rich girl prank that went to far...Carleen was too into drugs and her hardcore boyfriend (although she was also married at the time). In a stroke of luck, Carleen is paroled and is now a dog walker. She really does have a way with dogs. But she is also a very wealthy artist whose works are worth m ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-in-2016
I really loved this lengthy and beautiful novel by Elizabeth Swados. Anyone who knows me would know that this book is incredibly on brand: commentary on contemporary art, an exploration of current Jewish culture, and a huge vein of dogs. And believe me it was. Swados' book explores the ways that people reinvent themselves, PTSD resulting from being in prison, and the ways that dogs can make everything better. I am still amazed by the ways that the reader got into Colleen Kepper's, the main chara ...more
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2016
This is definitely not the book for everyone, but it is so unique and told so well. Ester was an art prodigy, bored college student turned crime ringleader, things go terribly wrong with a caper and she ends up in prison. It's told in a non linear fashion as she's just gotten out of prison and working in NYC as a dog walker. There's a lot of flashbacks to abuse in prison that are brutal and disturbing. But there's something so real about her discussion of mental illness, Judaism, art, dogs, and ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.25 Stars

Carleen is a former child prodigy painter and rich girl kleptomaniac struggling to reintegrate into society following a botched heist which left her incarcerated for two decades. Upon release, Carleen finds a job as a dog walker. She relates better to canines than to people. However, she attempts to reconnect with her daughter whom she had while in prison.

This was an unusual but good book. At times it was hard to read due to the prison scenes and the mental illness which were both very
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book.
Amy Rhodes
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book; tough and heartbreaking in equal measure. Swados has created an unforgettable character who is well worth your time.
Antonio Paola
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was wholly awestruck by this story. I will never forget this book. I will never forget the author.
Jamie Taylor
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book of the summer. Funny and serious, complicated yet simple, dark but oh so hopeful. Loved it.
Louise Silk
Jun 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
what a fabulous story- inventive, funny, clever, well written, fascinating choice of characters and point of view. a great read!
Lynn B
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fun and easy to read book. It seems like it could be nonfiction, but enjoyable as it is. I would highly recommend this one!
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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Elizabeth Swados (February 5, 1951 – January 5, 2016) was an American writer, composer, musician and theatre director. While some of her subject matter is humorous, such as her satirical look at Ronald Reagan (Rap Master Ronnie) and Doonesbury — both collaborations with Garry Trudeau — much of her work deals with darker issues such as racism, murder and mental illness.

Born February 5, 1951 in Buff