Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Huck by Janet Elder

The remarkable true story of
one lost puppy taught a
family -
and a whole town -
hope and happy endings.

In the tradition of Dewey, A Lion Called Christian, and Homer’s Odyssey, HUCK is an unforgettable true story of a lost puppy and a family who learned a valuable lesson about tenacity, faith, and the generosity of strangers.

This story begins with a little boy’s dream. Janet Elder’s son Michael was about four when he began begging for a dog. His relentless campaign went on for years. At one point, when Michael was about seven years old, there was even a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “My Dog,” with headings like “A Childhood Without a Dog is a Sad Thing.” Janet almost caved, but then thought about the impracticalities and the logistics--their city apartment, her and her husband Rich’s demanding jobs, their need to get away. So as much as she hated having a heartbroken boy on her hands, she remained steadfast: no dog. What makes her reconsider her long-standing position on a family dog is a breast cancer diagnosis.

Worried about the toll the illness would take on eleven-year-old Michael and Rich, Janet decides the anticipation and excitement over the arrival of a new puppy would be the perfect antidote to the strain on the family of months of treatments for her illness. The prospect of a new puppy would be an affirmation of life, a powerful talisman for them all.

On Thanksgiving weekend, shortly after the treatments were completed, they bring home a sweet, mischievous, red-haired, toy poodle, they name Huck, who quickly and conclusively wins everyone’s heart.

A few months later, the family ventures south to attend the Yankees’ spring training and enjoy a much-needed vacation, leaving Huck for the first time with Janet’s sister in Ramsey, New Jersey. Barely twenty-four hours into their trip, Janet gets a dreaded phone call. Huck has slipped through the backyard fence and run away. Broken hearted and frantic, the family races home to begin a search for little Huck. It’s a race against time, for Huck, lost in an area he is entirely unfamiliar with, faces the threat of bears, coyotes, raccoons, swamps, freezing temperatures, rain, and fast cars on curvy roads. Moved by the family’s plight, strangers – from school children to the police lieutenant -- join the search.

As the days pass, finding a small puppy in a densely wooded area in freezing and rainy weather proves to be an incredible test. Buoyed by grit, the open arms of strangers, and faith, the family soldiers on. Touching and warm-hearted, HUCK is a page-turning, heart-stopping story about resilience, the kindness of strangers, and determination. It is a story about hope, a story the reader will neither put down nor forget.

I'm a sucker for animal stories. Especially the cute, fuzzy pets who have a heart-wrenching story to tell. This wasn't quite what I thought it would be but it was still a touching story. I assumed the author was writing this book about her struggle with breast cancer and how this new puppy helped them through this horrible trauma. Huck was actually a gift for her animal-loving son after her treatments. He was a goal for them to achieve as a family, something for them to be excited about and plan for. This little dog helped them accomplish this and immediately won their hearts. He was a handful but he brought them great joy in a very short time.

He also brought great heartache when he ran away while the family was on vacation in 2006. They returned to Janet's sister's home in New Jersey to help search for him. Their tiny dog was alone in the freezing woods facing many dangers and they were desperate for help. During the days that Huck was missing they were blessed to have the help of many people. Despite the fact that they were complete strangers and Janet's family wasn't from their town these people stepped up to help someone in need. The book details the days Huck is lost and how sightings of him kept people motivated. We get to know Ramsey, New Jersey and what it took to find this little pup. (I don't like to give spoilers but it tells early on that Huck is found and the cover notes it's a book about hope and happy endings.)

Although it wasn't the story I expected it and it seemed to wander a bit it was still a feel good, easy read. It was nice to hear how these interesting characters came together through hope and determination to help others. It was also inspiring to find out Janet's personal experience with breast cancer and how she and her family fought for her survival. Her struggle and perseverance are great examples to others.

Janet Elders is a senior editor at The New York Times.

Thank you to Broadway Books for an ARC of this book to review.
Author's blog -

Publisher: Broadway Books
Release date: 9/28/10
Pages: 304
Price/format: $23.99/hardcover
Type: nonfiction

1 comment:

  1. This does sound like a sweet book. I hope you and your hubby are doing well.


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