Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan


Anytime I recommend a book about a dog to one friend, I have to assure her the dog lives, or she won’t read the book. I’m going to recommend Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus to her this week. Not only does Atticus live, but Ryan writes a blog called The Adventures of Tom & Atticus, so she can continue to read about the intrepid little dog.

Tom Ryan was the editor, publisher, and lone employee of the Undertoad, a small newspaper in Newburyport, Massachusetts, when he agreed to adopt an older miniature schnauzer, a miserable looking dog he named Maxwell Garrison Gillis. Max became Ryan’s companion at home, and on his travels around Newburyport, as he covered stories and delivered the newspaper. But, Max was old, and he lost his fight for life only a year and a half after he took over Ryan’s life.

Ryan needed that dog so much. As the youngest of nine children, he felt as if he lost his family when his mother died tragically when he was only seven. His father didn’t know how to cope, and his anger eventually forced all his children away. Ryan grew up without a loving home. His job as editor of the paper in the contentious community of Newburyport won him some friends, but just as many enemies. He was a lonely, heartbroken, overweight middle-aged man when he reached out for another miniature schnauzer.

The search for a puppy brought Paige Foster into his life, the breeder who sent him a small, six pound puppy, a dog who was “different.” From the moment Paige told him to carry that dog with him everywhere for a month, Ryan felt a bond with the puppy he named Atticus Maxwell Finch. And, he was a dog that was “different,” one who accompanied Tom everywhere on his rounds. And, eventually, Atticus and Tom Ryan built an unbreakable bound as they climbed the White Mountains of New Hampshire. For these unusual companions set out to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire's four-thousand-foot peaks, not just in summer, but also in winter.

Following Atticus is an emotional story of a man, his beloved friend, Atticus, their mountains, and the lessons Tom Ryan learned from Atticus and the mountains. It’s the story of a man and his dog, but it’s also the story of Tom Ryan’s life. It’s the story of a man learning to deal with his past, coming to terms with his father, and learning to understand him. It’s the story of a man, who for eleven years, worked to change a town torn apart by politics, factions, and the past.

If you’re not into the descriptions of mountains and nature as much as Tom Ryan is, that’s the part of the book that becomes a little tedious. However, his descriptions are full of poetry and philosophy, perfect for a man who hikes mountains with one companion.

The prologue of the book is beautiful, an introduction to a pair of unlikely adventurers. I dare you to read the prologue and the book, and not fall in love with Atticus. He’s a heroic little figure. Ryan’s description of Atticus Maxwell Finch is a wonderful depiction of the little fellow. However, it sums up Tom Ryan’s spirit, and the book, as well. “He is Frodo Baggins; he is Don Quixote; he is Huck Finn. He is every unlikely hero who ever took a step out the door and found himself swept up in adventure.”

Tom Ryan’s website is www.tomandatticus.blogspot.com

Following Atticus by Tom Ryan. William Morrow. ©2011. ISBN 9780061997105 (hardcover), 276p.


FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

18 comments:

Rosemary said...

Lesa, I am so glad you reviewed this book, because I have seen it advertised before but I am like your friend - I rarely read an 'animal' book just in case the animal dies.....pathetic I know, but I just can't put myself through it (Bambi was enough...). In fact I sometimes sit in a bookshop surreptitiously reading the last chapter of a book just to make sure it's safe.

So now I will look out for this book, it sounds great.

Have a good Tuesday - it's cold and cloudy here. I came upon the latest Isobel Dalhousie book - 'The Forgotten Affairs of Youth'- in the library yesterday, joy!

Rosemary

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I'm also glad to hear about a dog book where the dog doesn't die at the end! And it's nice to keep up with the dog through a blog, too.

Lesa said...

Oh, I couldn't recommend this to my friend without telling her the dog didn't die, Elizabeth. So, I'm sure there are a number of people who feel the same way.

Harvee said...

Lovely dog, wonderful book. I'm so glad they stopped writing so many heart wrenching books about pets dying. There are so many other kinds of more cheerful books out there now, including dog mysteries!

Janine said...

Lesa, your comments on the book are spot on and eloquently written. I recommend this book everyday and have personally given copies of the book to two other people; but I, too, have to tell them the dog doesn't die! Following their Facebook page is one of the highlights of my day! Thank you for spreading the word about this inspirational book.

bermudaonion said...

A good dog can bring so much into your life. This sounds like a sweet book.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to spread the word about Tom and his little bug Atticus. I've been a fan since before the book went to publication. It's nice to read a review where the reviewer got it. This is more than a dog book. It's a life quest book too. Thanks for continuing to spread the word about Tom & Atticus!

Nancy said...

Oh, this book calls to me. Thank you so much, Lesa.

Beth Hoffman said...

Atticus has already stolen my heart! This book sounds wonderful.

Happy Tuesday, Lesa!

Lesa said...

You're right, Harvee. It's too hard to read those books when the dog dies. And, there are some good dog mysteries out there as well.

Lesa said...

Janine,

Thank you! I can't wait to recommend this book tomorrow at my brown bag luncheon. The librarians are going to love it. It is a life quest book. That's a beautiful way of phrasing it. Tom's journey in life was just as fascinating as his journey with Atticus. But, what a wonderful dog!

Lesa said...

Kathy,

This book is moving, charming, and a joy, even though there will be a few tears.

Lesa said...

Anonymous - It's my pleasure to spread the word about Tom and Atticus, and the book. I just commented on my Facebook page, linking to theirs, so I hope some people "Like" Following Atticus on Facebook.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Nancy. I see it did call to you enough that you ended up on the Facebook page. I know you're going to enjoy the book.

Lesa said...

Wait until you see the pictures of Atticus in the book, Beth. Talk about stealing your heart! I get to do my brown bag luncheon tomorrow, so I should have a good week!

Karen C said...

I'm definitely recommending this book to my friends who love their dogs like children. Thank you.

Ingrid King said...

This is definitely going on my TBR list, even if it's about a d-o-g. Wonderful review, Lesa. Psst, don't tell my cats!

Sue Farrell said...

I, too, can't read a book where the dor (or cat or bird or mouse) dies---I was afraid to pick up this book but now I can!!!