26 March 2016

The Thing Is

Synopsis from Goodreads: Meredith Mancuso is depressed. Ever since the death of her fiancé, she has shrunk from the world. Even with her successful writing career, she's not motivated to work. When her sister, Monica, begs for a favor, Meredith wants nothing more than to say no. But she’s ultimately roped into pet-sitting an orphaned Yorkshire terrier named Prozac.

Blessed with spiritual wisdom and a high IQ, Prozac is an active pet therapy dog. To heal broken-hearted Meredith, he rallies his fan club at Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where he visits each week.

Prozac and the community of resilient older folks challenged by losses of their own propel Meredith, often against her will, back into the land of the living. Meredith learns that most people carry some sort of burden, but it's still possible to find meaning, purpose, and joy—and sometimes, even love—along the way.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, Red Adept Publishing, 2016.

How acquired: Offered to me by the author.

First line: The minute the breeder opened the crate, my littermates went nuts.

My thoughts: I'm a sucker for dog stories, so the first line of this book immediately grabbed me, as it was first person point of view being narrated by a dog. Prozac started his new life as a little Yorkshire terrier, going from the laundry room of a breeder to a home with an elderly Helen. It's not his first life. Prozac is a Spirit Guide Dog, sent to earth to complete mission after mission, each time being born into the body of a different dog. Unlike your average dog, he understands everything going on around him, and can read. His dream is to star on the stage as Sandy in the musical “Annie”. However, right now his life is with Helen, who has had him certified as a therapy dog, and takes him to nursing homes, hospitals, children's story time at libraries, etc. He's not sure what his actual mission is, but he has a pretty comfortable cushy life in the meantime. Then Helen has to be hospitalized, and puts Prozac in the car of her accountant, who then dumps him on her sister, Meredith.

I frankly had trouble connecting with Meredith at first, through no fault of the author. She's never had a dog, never really been around dogs, and is not the least bit interested in taking care of a stranger's dog. She's furious with her sister for saddling her with this responsibility. I, on the other hand, have always had dogs, I love dogs, and I would love more than anything to be a doggie foster parent. So it was hard to relate to Meredith's feelings as she ranted and raved about the situation her sister put her in. I don't understand how anyone could not love dogs! Unless, of course, like Meredith's sister, they are highly allergic to dog hair.

The narration actually alternates, with some chapters being told from Prozac's point of view, and others narrated by Meredith. Her fiance was senselessly murdered several years ago, and she is still grieving his death. Despite her aversion to dogs and not welcoming Prozac into her home with cuddles and kisses planted on top of his head, she's a very sympathetic character. Her grief is practically palpable,and my heart went out to her again and again.

That doesn't mean the story is heavy or depressing, although towards the end there were some feels, and I did get very teary-eyed. But overall it's actually fairly light, with a lot of humor. There's an interesting cast of supporting characters. I did get some of the residents of the senior independent living center confused, but most of the supporting characters are quite distinctive, with their own quirks. In fact, I think the only thing that prevented some of those characters from taking over the story at times was the narration not being in third person POV. And while I wouldn't really classify the book as being a romance, there was a little of that eventually thrown in. I lean toward romance more than any other genre, but I still would've enjoyed the story just as much without that element, so that's definitely a point in the author's favor. 

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