Thursday, November 21, 2013


Fiction | If Dogs Could Talk

On Goodreads, I rated Pete Nelson’s I Thought You Were Dead as a 5-star earner. That five star rating is rare, so I know you’re dying to read why I bestowed such an honor on this book.

But before we get into that, I’ll give you a brief summary. In the opening, we meet Pete Gustavson, a writer in the earliest part of being “middle aged.” (I’d say he’s in his early- to mid-40s?) He writes a version of those Dummies and Idiot Guide books—in this case, it’s the “For Morons” series. He lives alone, divorced from his wife; he has a sort of serious girlfriend, but they’ve kept the relationship open just to avoid getting hurt; his best friends are fellow patrons/regulars down at a local dive bar. Paul’s not a bad guy, and his life isn’t too terrible, but what we eventually come to see is that he doesn’t totally have it together. When his father has a stroke, Paul takes it as a wake up call, and he starts to shake up the life he has somehow settled into.

Oh, and the real bright spot in Paul’s life is his aging lab, Stella. And she can talk.

Yes, Paul has a talking dog. Stella is Paul’s one source of unending support, of advice without judgment, of unconditional love. And though the pages are filled with dialogue between dog and human, that’s not really the focus of this book. It’s not something you harp on—a talking dog???—it just kind of is.

Instead, our focus is on Paul, and herein lies why I boosted it from my usually 4-star “Enjoyed It.” Because I “Really Unexpectedly Enjoyed It.” The premise is so simple that it feels almost like a short story—we have a singular character in a singular setting; we’ve got this quirky component that immediately piques our interest. But you know how with short stories you’re drawn into the characters and then it just so disappointingly has to end? That doesn’t happen here! We get a full story, not just a brief glance, and it’s so satisfying. I really liked Paul, and I like having a good character to root for.

So this, friends, is why I Thought You Were Dead earned 5 stars from me. It snuck up on me and gave me something I wasn’t expecting—and that’s one of the many potential joys of reading.


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