Walking in Circles Before Lying Down

Merrill Markoe, Author . Villard $22.95 (270p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6483-0

Markoe (It's My F—ing Birthday ) delivers a light-on-its-paws account of dog-lover Dawn Tarnauer's canine-led quest for love. Twice-divorced Dawn is the product of a fantastically dysfunctional family (Dawn's sister, Halley, is an overly enthusiastic life coach, her mother is a struggling entrepreneur and her former smalltime rockabilly musician father invests "a lot of time into perfecting... authentic fifties outfits"); her dog, Chuck, begins talking to her after dud radio-DJ boyfriend Paxton dumps her. Though other dogs can also suddenly communicate with Dawn (including Johnny Depp, a friend's dog), Chuck remains the leading pooch as he plies his master with sage advice and astute observations—"He seemed humpy," Chuck opines about one suitor; "Who doesn't like puppies? That's psychotic," he muses about Paxton—as she negotiates the standard fare of chick lit (losing her job, getting mixed up with wacky beaus, aiding her friends through their respective crises, finding a place to live). Until, that is, Chuck runs away, forcing Dawn to realize her true love may not be a biped. Off-beat enough to stand out of the pack. (Aug.)