I ended up really liking this book, which I found at my favorite local bookstore 😀 But I admit I had to struggle through the first third of it. It’s not easy for animal lovers because Barton writes about all the dogs and pets she had before getting her beloved Bunker, and they don’t all fare as well as he did.
Since early adulthood, Barton struggled with clinical depression, though she wasn’t initially diagnosed with it. It stemmed from a horribly abusive childhood at the hands of her older brother, which her mother somehow didn’t realize was happening or just didn’t care about. It’s horrendously sad and you really feel for her. She has a breakdown in New York after starting her first job and returns to her hometown, Columbus, Ohio, to recover. She struggles with her illness, is originally diagnosed, ever so wrongfully and harmfully, with anorexia, eventually receives a proper diagnosis, and then finds Bunker, who changes everything. Through his love – his sheer existence, she is able to begin her life for real, get a job, move to another city on the opposite coast, become independent.
Early on, Bunker gets very sick and the lengths Barton goes to to save him – and thus herself – are beautifully heartbreaking. He, it turns out, needs her just as much as she needs him. You end up empathizing so much with her, loving and needing her best friend like she does, and feeling her panic when he can’t always be around her. That’s what was so amazing about her writing: she drew you into her story, her life so powerfully that you felt like you became her. Even some of her more inscrutable behavior, you came to accept and even want to defend. I’ve never suffered from serious depression before, and by the end, I felt like I really understood the mental illness, the panic, the despair, and how people who go off their meds can tragically end up suicidal.
So glad I stuck with this book. It was so richly rewarding.