cover image Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog

Shelby Hearon, . . Univ. of Texas, $21 (227pp) ISBN 978-0-292-71469-4

Hearon's 17th book, the first since Ella in Bloom (2001), is a solid story of second chances and renewing family ties. Janey Daniels, 25, is taking a "sabbatical" in Vermont from her job as a pharmacist in Peachland, S.C., after her high school sweetheart and husband of five years dumps her for an ex-girlfriend. In Vermont, with its brilliantly colored Octobers and frigid winters, Janey bonds with Beulah, a Labrador puppy she's raising to become a companion for a blind person. It's while walking Beulah that she meets James Maarten, a potential boyfriend who is secretive about his past. At Janey's insistence, James eventually comes around to opening up and reconnecting with his family. Janey's attempts at intimacy, though, are sometimes rebuffed, leaving her with Beulah to love, socialize and wonder if she will ever be able to part with. In these moments, Janey's neediness is deeply felt, but she often appears far wiser and more even-keeled than her background and youth would allow, especially regarding her budding romance. Hearon's in good, but not top, form. (Mar.)