New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir

Gail Caldwell. Random, $26 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6954-5
Caldwell, a Cambridge, Mass.,–based author of two stalwart memoirs, most recently about the untimely death of her best friend Caroline Knapp (Let’s Take the Long Way Home), again confronts, with pluck and fortitude, the hurdles that life throws her way—in this case, hip surgery while tending to a new pet Samoyed. Caldwell, we know from her previous work, adores dogs, specifically big dogs, and after the death of her beloved Clementine, in 2008, she tracked down a Samoyed breeder she had her eye on for years and procured a new puppy, Tula. However, at age 57 and with a “bum leg,” the product of being stricken with polio as a six-month-old child growing up in West Texas in 1951, Caldwell wondered at the wisdom of getting a very muscular, high-octane dog when her leg strength seemed to be diminishing alarmingly. Indeed, after her limp got worse, after falling and increasing pain she could no longer ignore, she finally got an X-ray, and the severe degenerative arthritis that had been gnawing away at her right hip was clearly revealed. Hip surgery in 2011 proved a regular miracle for a condition like hers, despite the arduous six-month rehabilitative process. Yet poor Tula gets back-seated in this crisp, straightforward work, and while the author finds her solid footing, her narrative lacks the emotional centering of her last work. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 01/13/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
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Open Ebook - 88 pages - 978-0-679-60442-6
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Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-8129-8187-2
Compact Disc - 4 pages - 978-0-8041-9085-5
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