Thursday, February 14, 2013

Walking Back to Happiness Book Review *Lucy Dillon*

Synopsis: Juliet's hiding from her feelings about the recent loss of Ben, the love of her life. If it weren't for having to walk Ben's loyal dog, Minton, she'd never leave their half-finished house. Then her mother asks her to take her elderly lab, Coco, along. One dog leads to another, and soon Juliet's the unofficial town pet-sitter. And when she takes on a lonely spaniel, and gets to know its attractive owner, she realizes that her emotions aren't as easy to handle as her canine charges...

Walking Back to Happiness is about death and life and everything in between. It’s a tender and emotional read about a woman who loses her husband, the man she has been with since she was a teenager and ended up marrying and wanting to build a life with. Juliet thought she had it all with her husband Ben, their faithful Jack Russell-ish terrier, Minton and a new home they bought that they were in the process of renovating. But then Ben dies suddenly at age thirty-one and Juliet’s life came to a screeching halt. She can’t handle the loss and basically shuts down, hiding in her unfinished house, watching mind numbing television for hours and only turning to Milton for support. Milton is her sole purpose for getting up each day and she looks forward to their walks very late at night where no one can bother her. Juliet’s mourning consumes her until her mother grows sick of it. Her mum, Diane wants her to start taking the steps she needs to recover from Ben’s death, and that means facing the world again, which is in the form of Diane’s twelve year old chocolate Lab, Coco. Juliet will start watching Coco a few days a week because Diane must start watching the Toby, the toddler to Louise, Juliet’s sister. Since Juliet wants to shut her mother up essentially, she agrees.

Louise will go back to work after almost two years of being a stay at home mother. She’s excited to do so because she feels her entire being is now taking care of Toby. There’s some strain between her and her husband, Peter, or rather she feels the strain because Peter is clueless to the situation. Peter works long hours and thinks Louise loves staying at home. He can’t really understand why she wants to go back to work and would even like to try for another baby to Louise’s horror. Louise is, or has distanced herself from Peter because she has a secret that could ruin their marriage and she’s trying to push it down, but it keeps poking at her because she’s close to having a breakdown. She has to decide whether or not to tell Peter this horrible thing she has done because it may ruin her marriage.

As Louise tries to come to terms with the emotional upheavals she’s experiencing, Juliet is trying to move forward, but Ben’s memory continues to hold her back. Her crazy and loud neighbors she can’t stand force their way into her life, including Lorcan, friends of the crazy neighbors who wants to help renovate Juliet’s house, specifically her bathroom thanks to Diane’s influence. Juliet allows it, but still keeps everyone at a distance, although she begins to enjoy Lorcan’s company, perhaps too much. But then during her walks with Minton and Coco, she meets another dog walker named Mark who she slowly starts to bond with. Mark is divorced and appears to be lonely with only his dog Damson to keep his company. A plus is that Mark is handsome and makes Juliet feels something inside she hasn’t felt since Ben. She decides to tentatively take a chance with Mark, which backfires to some shocking results.

Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon is a British, Chick-Lit book that deals with tragedy. It’s very simply reading with no grand exclamations of emotions, but the writing and the characters are engaging and welcoming. The reason I read this one is that I’m a sucker for stories with animals, especially dogs. Most of what I have read regarding dogs in books is dealing with the main protagonist, usually female, who is dealing with some loss in her life. She has her trusted canine to help her get through whatever tragedy has befallen  her and the joy in reading something like this are the slow steps the protagonist, like Juliet, takes to enjoy the things around her and has a new outlook overall about herself and those around her. Juliet may have lost her first love, Ben, but she finds love and especially friendship and support in other ways such as her loving parents and that of her neighbors. I also liked how Louise’s story counteracted Juliet’s. Louise is overcome with so much stress and confusion about what she wants and doesn’t want, but you really understand what she’s going through. I think new mothers will appreciate Louise’s story and the steps she takes to face the mistakes she had made, especially in her marriage.

If you’re a fan of Chick-Lit or Women’s Fiction with moments of humor combined with thought provoking issues about marriage, family and death, including some adorable dogs that really add flavor to the overall plot, do give Walking Back to Happiness a go. I really did have the warm fuzzies after I finished reading and count myself lucky to be a pet owner (perhaps not to a dog, but two adorable kitties who really do own my soul). (Berkley)

Final Grade: B

A few other Walking Back to Happiness reviews:
Chicklit Club
Chick Lit Reviews and News
Kimi Hearts Books