“It was dusk on a winter day, and from high on the mountain came barking, drifting down above the snow like peals of a bell, one, two, three, four, more, just to say the light was leaving, but that was all right: here I am, I’m a dog, all is well.”
So begins Ellen Cooney’s novel The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances. Evie, a twenty-something struggling drug addict, lies her way into a job at the Sanctuary—a canine refuge center set high in the mountains. Finding herself among lost souls—in both dog and human form—Evie must learn to open herself to others and learn to trust again.
Goodreads describes the novel as “a story of strays and rescues, kidnappings and homecomings, moving on and holding on and letting go.” True, but the story is so much more—it is an exploration of suffering and loneliness, of abuse and recovery, of accepting help and allowing others to step into a deeper place into our lives.
Picture a dog kept in a cage every moment it’s not forced into grueling races; a life spent relying on substances instead of relationships; a soul fractured from instability and abuse. The interwoven stories sound hard to read, and at times they are; Cooney manages to present the tale in such a way, however, that leaves the reader with a hopeful feeling and warmed heart.
Readers who enjoy The Art of Racing in the Rain, A Dog Who Walks into a Nursing Home, or any animal/human love stories will enjoy Cooney’s latest work. This novel was chosen as one of staff-member Paula’s favorites; find more of her suggestions here.
Thanks for reading. –Autumn
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