Maggie Brennan moved to San Francisco to start a new life. She's renting the bottom floor apartment in her best friend Lourdes' home and she's got a fledgling business started as a pet bereavement counselor. She helps people grieve and accept the loss of their dogs and she's empathetic and quite good at what she does. But Maggie has major problems of her own. It's been 100 days since her own beloved dog, Toby, died of cancer and she has not been able to go further than the gate at the sidewalk without suffering a panic attack since then. Her agoraphobia is becoming increasingly problematic when a difficult and prickly young woman arrives at her door for counseling. Anya is only there to appease her older brother Henry, who wants her to accept the loss of her dog Billy and to be able to move on in her life. But Anya is convinced that Billy isn't dead nor that he ran away. She's certain he's been stolen. Maggie doesn't know if she believes Anya but she is drawn to this desperate woman and wants to help her. The catch is that Anya is only willing to talk to Maggie if she accompanies Anya around the city looking for any trace of Billy. Using Lourdes' lovely dog Giselle to help her conquer the agoraphobia and as a touchstone when her fear of heights or a panic attack comes upon on her, Maggie ventures out with Anya, quickly becoming emotionally invested in her, her caring older brother, and the rest of her quirky but loving family.
The story is a heartwarming one for anyone who has ever loved an animal. Donohue captures the depth of love we feel for our furry family members and the way in which the world feels less overwhelming and as if everything in it is good when we have our pet by our side. She also delicately handles the swamping grief that their loss brings. All of the characters are sympathetic, appealing, and fully fleshed out. The plot is fairly predictable but Donohue peppers fun little details into the story to give it some variety. Maggie's work on the web pages for adoptable dogs at SuperMutt, the dog rescue organization she volunteers at, where she likens each dog to a celebrity is one such small detail. The descriptions of Anya's photos of dogs is another. The dogs in the novel, from Giselle to Toby to Billy to neurotic, scared Seymour are all unique and their presence shines in the lives of their people and in the story. The end of this sweet tale of love and loss, both human and canine, is never in doubt but it is a delightful, hopeful story that leaves the reader with a good feeling. Animal lovers in particular will enjoy it but anyone who has loved and lost and had to face the future anyway will appreciate this ultimately uplifting story.
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Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.