Dog lovers are falling head over paws for A Man of His Own by Susan Wilson. It's a standout in the overcrowded field of animal books. 19 out of 21 BookBrowse readers gave it a rating of 4 or 5. Here are some reasons why this heart-wrenching World War II novel is a favorite:
Let me say right up front that I loved this book. Pax, an abandoned puppy, is the center of the story. Rick finds him. Pax then has to make room in his heart for Rick's wife Francesca. When Rick goes off to war (WWII) Pax is sent to war too, as part of the Dogs for Defense program (see Beyond the Book). He fights alongside Keller who has never known love until he meets Pax. After the war is over Keller reluctantly returns Pax to his owners. But Rick has been severely injured in the war and Francesca needs help caring for him, so Keller takes a job being Rick's caregiver. The chapters bounce between different viewpoints - Rick, Francesca, Pax, and Keller. You can't help caring for these four characters in the story and wanting them all to be happy, but how can they? (Betty T)
Dog lovers and dog story lovers agree. A Man of His Own is the best kind of animal story; one that lets the reader into the minds and hearts of every character even the four footed ones:
As a dog lover, I loved it, and I don't like all dog stories. Even some of the most popular have left me cold. But this one drew me in and held me there (Carol T). I love animal stories and this one did not disappoint. By the time I finished the book, I felt that I knew each of the characters well - like they were my friends. The struggles that each were dealing with, including Pax, the dog, were perfectly balanced; just the right amount of information but not so much that you got lost in the detail (Kristen H). So much more than a dog story! Different narrators, short overlapping chapters, heart-rending events, and characters with depth, all woven together to make an outstanding novel (Gwen C). With great simplicity and understanding, the author has written a heartwarming story of pain, complex relationships, and believable conflict resolutions. This is much more than a dog story. It is a story of love - rebuilding and renewing past love, finding love, unrequited love, and, of course, unconditional love. And it is a story of healing and the incredible role Pax plays in that (Marie A). There are dog books and then there are dog books and this is one that soars to the top of my list (Vicki O).
Readers were transported back in history:
This book grabbed my attention and didn't let go. It depicted the years immediately during and after WWII in a way that seemed completely realistic (Carol R). Every now and then you read a book that totally captivates you. So much so that you feel the characters are people you actually know. And if you are a dog fancier, the feeling is multiplied. Susan Wilson has the ability to give life to words and phrases so that you are sure her story has really happened (Marylou C). Susan Wilson deftly incorporates the important role the K-9 patrols played in aiding soldiers during war and how valuable an asset these wonderful animals can be to those who are infirm (Linda M). I couldn't put this book down. Granted, I am a huge dog lover and was immediately grabbed by the main character, Pax. However, I was immediately transported on a journey of love, devotion, loyalty, disappointment and healing. This is a great period piece informing the reader that PTSD is not just an Iraq/Afghanistan injury, but something experienced by many past war veterans (Debra P).
A Man of His Own is an emotionally charged book; readers couldn't help but let the story touch them deeply:
It often takes the honesty of animals to reveal our humanity, and A Man of His Own highlights this well. The sweeping theme of our human struggles, coupled with the love of a dog pulled me in. Rather than being cliché, this book is honest, warm and revealing which helps the reader through the more emotionally charged and difficult topics (Sarah H). About a third of the way through the book I said "I don't need this in my life right now." I almost never put a book down mid-way through, so after a few days I picked it up again and finished it. I'm still not sure why I felt so personally involved, but the book was not emotionally easy for me. I think it was the sharing of such intimacy that was unsettling to me (Gigi K). Every dog should have a man of his own. Pax is one lucky dog. He has two. They are very different men, but each tug equally at his heart. Pax illustrates the power of love to heal and endure. This is a book that touches the heart (Patricia S). I found it difficult to finish this book - not because it wasn't a good read, but because it was so well done that I sometimes had to put it aside to let my emotions settle down. I suppose one could quibble with the occasional anthropomorphic treatment of Pax's viewpoint, but it works beautifully in the context. Do yourself a favor and buy or borrow this book. You won't regret it! (Diana W)
A few readers, though they still recommend it, had trouble with the book:
There's a fairy tale quality to this story; of lives being put back together rather than being torn apart. It's also a story filled with tension and personal endurance, but without harsh words or emotional outbursts. For me, the story was somewhat unrealistic and contrived. I became impatient in several places, resisting the temptation to skip ahead. Still, I would recommend this very well written book (Molly K). I was really looking forward to this book and so was disappointed to find that I had to push my way through it. This is no Merle's Door a book I dearly loved. Nor is it The Art of Racing in the Rain. I felt as though the story was being described to me and subsequently I moved through it along the surface, never feeling engaged by or caring about the characters. Still, I'm sure this book will have many fans. Had I not had the aforementioned books with which to compare it, I might have been one as well (Karen J).
In short, readers wholeheartedly recommend A Man of His Own to many different kinds of people:
Wilson has written a book that I recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the bond between service animals and their companions (Nan G). A Man of His Own will appeal to all ages including teens, young adults, and most certainly, dog lovers. It shows how a young boy, growing up in adversity, can not only survive, but also become an upstanding citizen who can learn to love. And how another copes with post-traumatic stress disorder after the war. This would be a good read for parents and older children to read and discuss together (Bobbie D). I heartily recommend this book to all dog lovers. Read it with a box of tissues and a canine friend at your side (Pepper E).
This review was originally published in October 2013, and has been updated for the January 2015 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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