I was about a quarter into this book when I realized it was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.  I stopped reading her recommended books years and years ago when it began to dawn on me that every last damn one of them was dark, sad, unhappy, depressing and a bunch of other descriptions like that.  I don’t like depressing books.  I am a PollyAnna gamboling down the daisy-filled hillsides in the warm sunlight of spring kind of girl.

But so far, so OK, so I continued.  And I was right.  It was fine for about three-quarters of the book, and then darkness fell, evil ensued, the black heart of human nature appeared, and I was sorry I started the darn thing.

It is about a family in northern Wisconsin, I think, who were the third generation of dog breeders, with an extensive kennel, who only sold extremely well-trained dogs of about 18 months or two years.  Their first child was stillborn, but the second was healthy. Although it turned out that he could not speak.  He could hear, but not speak, and so the family developed their own DIY version of sign language.

After many years, the father’s estranged brother returns to the small town, and works for a bit with the family, but the old rancor between the brothers re-emerges and he leaves to go live in town and work for the vet.

When the boy was a young teen, or so, the father has a brain aneurysm while working in the barn kennel, and dies.  The mother and boy do their best to continue on the business but it is a hard go, and eventually the brother starts showing up to help out, and the two adults come to have a relationship, which of course, the young boy strongly resents.

At one point, the vet appears at the top of the stairs to the second floor of the barn where the boy is working with the dog training, but the boy has some kind of weird vision and flies to attack the old man, who stumbles backward and falls down the stairs, breaking his neck and dying.  The mother tells the kid to run away, which he does, and hence follows a long involved telling of his trek with three of his dogs, breaking and entering vacation homes to steal food.  He eventually meets an old bachelor who takes him in, and the boy decides he must go home.

Not telling you the rest but it is ugly.

This book received the First Novel Prize (2008), Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction (2009), Sakura Medal Nominee for High School Book (2010), Indies Choice Book Award for Best Author Discovery (2009), Puddly Award for Fiction (2009)The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize Nominee (2008).  It’s been called the reanimation of “Hamlet.”  I guess there really are only seven basic plots in the world.  Well, it was beautifully written, yada yada yada, but golly gee whilikers I sure did miss the daisies on the hillsides.

Alas, poor Yorick.


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