JENNY WILLOW

Mike Gaddis, Author
Mike Gaddis, Author . Lyons $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-58574-451-0
Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 01/01/2009
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-1-59228-492-4
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A remarkable grouse-hunting dog undergoes an difficult transition from old master to new owner in Gaddis's debut, a compassionate, heartwarming story that begins with octogenarian Ben Willow facing the prospect of spending his twilight years without his late wife, Libby. Willow is rescued from his nostalgic ennui when a neighbor in his West Virginia hamlet offers him a young pointer pup named Jenny. Willow quickly realizes the implications of the dog's lineage as well as her remarkable hunting skills, but when he goes to hunt with her, he finds himself frustrated by his own decline. To compensate for his limitations, he loans her out to another trainer, and Jenny goes on to become a national champion. When she retires, still in her prime, she returns to Willow; on their reunion hunt, however, has a fatal heart attack. After being mauled by a pack of wild dogs and imprisoned by a nasty local redneck who wants to sell her, Jenny is finally rescued by Willow's best friend, Clyde Wood. He fulfills his friend's final request, passing her on to a local boy who promises to train and care for her. Gaddis's decision to eliminate his human protagonist halfway through the book is a risky gamble that pays off with his riveting account of Jenny's dangerous adventure, although the story of her recovery is overwrought and overwritten, and there's never much doubt about a happy ending. Gaddis wears his heart on his sleeve, but despite the occasional mawkish passage, his obvious love of the land, its creatures and his characters makes this book an endearing read. (Apr.)

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