If I were to give, Susan Wilson’s latest book, A Man of His Own, a two word review, it would be: Dog people. In my time in New York, I’ve seen the relationships people build with their dogs: the time, money, and effort that is summed up in love for a furry little friend.
Wilson has written seven books that have seen varying levels of success, including the New York Times’ best selling list and the basis for a made-for-TV movie. In perusing her bibliography, one will find A Man of His Own is not Wilson’s first canine-centered story making it clear she is skilled at bringing to life dogs and the special relationship they develop with their human counterparts.
To tell this story of undying love, the resilience of the human heart, and the consequences of war, Macmillan brought together four accomplished and award-winning readers to narrate the respective chapters of the four main characters: Rick, Pax, Francesca, and Keller.
Pax is a German Shepherd Rick finds in an alley as a minor league ballplayer with high hopes. Francesca is a young, small town girl from Iowa who wants more out of life. While visiting her cousin in Boston, she sees Rick in the bullpen. Their eyes meet, and they are rushed along in the whirlwind of love.
Pax, however, will take his own time warming up to Rick’s new love. When WWII picks up and the draft starts sending it’s young men, fathers, and husbands to war, the perfect life the young couple is building, along with the rest of the country, will be challenged.
And finally, there is Keller. As an orphan, his relatives passed him around until Keller wound up in reform school. His rough life didn’t change much when his great uncle, Clayton, claimed him and brought him to his shack to work his fishing boat. So when WWII came, Keller saw it as his way out.
As the war wages on, Francesca takes comfort in Pax but is slowly buying into the notion that we all have a part to play, and eventually, this comes to include Pax.
In the Army, Pax’s willful spirit makes him tough for the handlers to train until Keller comes along. By war’s end, Keller and Pax are inseparable, and Rick is broken. What happens after is a twisted triangle of love, duty, respect, and attraction between the three humans with Pax (which means peace) in the center.
A Man of His Own is a story of endurance, what makes life worth living, and how important it is to keep our eyes on those things.
The plot is realistic, involving a few twists and wrenching moments. It is a soft, and family friendly book with a stubborn but loyal dog as a main character.
I understand the purpose of Wilson’s use of Pax’s perspective but feel it’s use limits the reality of the book. Dog owners might disagree, seeing first hand the perception and personalities of their pets, and for this reason, I would recommend this audio book for those who do disagree. There is another curious chose that the author makes. While Rick and Keller, as well as the dog they both love, are written and read in third person omnipresent perspectives, Francesca is written in first person.
The males’ voices counter the effect of this choice to a degree, but the first person account gives the book an overall feminine voice, which I feel allows women to more readily identify with the story’s conflicts and relationships. For dog-loving women (which I feel safe to say Wilson is), she has struck gold once again, and this audio book will only add to the notice and acclaim A Man of His Own is already receiving.