My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Start with a young-ish divorced man, struggling to get his career going, in love with a woman dating someone else. Throw in a parent with a major health issue, a supportive sister, and a much more successful older brother who’s a lifelong rival and idle who he must come to terms with. On the whole, there’s not much here you can’t find in many other books on the General Fiction shelves. But Nelson executes his story so well, the lack of novelty isn’t that important. Nothing seems forced, even if several plot developments can be seen coming a hundred pages or more away, they still unfold naturally. And you’re left with a tale well told, and well worth your while.
And that would be enough, but there is one element to this book you won’t find anywhere else–Stella, “a mixed breed, half German Shepherd and half yellow Labrador, but favoring the latter in appearance. Fortunately, she’d also gotten her personality from the Labrador side of the family, taking from the Germans only a certain congenital neatness and a strong sense of protectiveness, though as the Omega dog in her litter, it only meant she frequently felt put upon.” As with any good book with a dog as a main character, Stella is the heart and soul of this book–at least until her master gets his act together, and then he shares that billing. Stella’s also the source of the humor in the book–humor frequently needed to keep the story from being bogged down in the muck of her master’s life.
If you can buy Paul talking to Stella and Stella talking back (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t), this is a sweet, heart-filled book that’s a great way to wile away a few hours.