I met Ann Garvin when she gave an enthusiastic and funny keynote address at the UW Madison Writer’s Institute in 2015. As an exercise physiology nurse turned novelist, her stories intrigued me with her sense of humor. Her book, The Dog Year, grabbed my heart and eyes with a photo of a dog on the cover. I met Ann again a year later at the Chicago Writer’s Conference, where she gave me pointers on how to pitch an agent for the book I am currently writing.
The Dog Year is not directly about dogs but uses them as ancillary characters to help Dr. Lucy Peterman and her friends heal from various emotional traumas. Dogs are great therapists, which Lucy discovered after she decided to keep an abandoned dog she named “Little Dog.”
Lucy developed kleptomania after her husband and unborn child died in a car accident. Instead of working through her grief, she avoided it by leaving her bedroom untouched, only entering to throw in bags of supplies she had stolen from the hospital where she worked as a plastic surgeon, specializing in breast reconstruction.
After getting caught stealing, her boss gave her a leave of absence until she received counseling from an addiction therapist and completed twenty sessions of group therapy at Alcoholics Anonymous, the only group addiction therapy session available.
Lucy resented having to attend AA, but there she met some interesting people. She also runs into Mark, a former high school classmate now a cop, who caught her stealing a bar of soap at Walmart. They strike up a friendship, which Lucy doesn’t feel comfortable with until he gets her pregnant in a moment of weakness.
As Lucy decided whether to keep Mark’s baby or become impregnated with her late husband’s sperm stored at a sperm bank, she started volunteering at the animal shelter. Through her involvement with the AA group and dogs, she decided to find pets for her AA friends. Visits to the dog park became their new ritual as relationships with the dogs and each other aid recovery from their addictions.
This novel has a lighthearted approach to all the complexities of life. Overall, I found this a unique story about how friends and dogs can help us grow.
I rate this book at 4 out of 5 stars.
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