The cover kind of makes the novel look like cute chick lit, but it is so much deeper and more serious and it contains some of the most beautiful, visceral evocations of dog / human love and what it’s like to lose a beloved pet. Donohue has an MFA from Columbia and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth and it shows.
Maggie is a young psychologist specializing in pet bereavement. She’s just taken the plunge and relocated from her Philadelphia hometown to San Francisco to open her new practice when her beloved dog, Toby, is stricken with cancer and dies. She’s so traumatized that she ends up an agoraphobe (like her mother), unable to leave her house. One of her new clients is Anya, who’s brother has hired Maggie to help his sister overcome the loss of her dog. Anya’s dropped out of school and lost her job over her trauma. Problem is, Anya doesn’t want to overcome her dog’s death because she believes her dog is still alive but has been kidnapped. No one in Anya’s family believes her and Maggie is unsure whether the dog is still alive but is compelled by Anya’s deep convictions to help her search. In order to do that, she, of course, must go out of her home, which she does initially with the help of her friend’s therapy dog, Giselle, then with the help of Anya.
The story is part mystery – is Anya’s dog still alive?, part story of friendship between the two young women, and part psychological journey to mental wellness. You just know Maggie will end up with one of the many dogs she helps along her journey – from the stray, to the rescue with behavioral problems preventing his adoption, to Giselle the therapy dog – and you’re rooting for her to take one into her home and love him like she did Toby.
It’s a wonderful book particularly for anyone suffering the loss of a pet who needs to know they are far from alone.
Sofia, our dog, poses with the book, and she gives it five scrumptious bonito flakes!