cover image Nop's Hope

Nop's Hope

Donald McCaig. Crown Publishers, $20 (230pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58488-0

This quietly moving sequel to Nop's Trials is both a poignant study of one woman's struggle with overwhelming grief and a heartfelt celebration of the love between humans and dogs. Mourning her husband and young daughter, who have died in a car accident, destitute teacher Penny Burkeholder sets off from Virginia in a pickup truck with her black-and-white Border collie, Hope, to travel the sheepdog trial circuit--the county fairs, ranches and farms from Florida to Oregon where trained dogs and their handlers compete for cash prizes. Penny's father, Lewis, featured in Nop's Trials , and Hope's sire, wise old Nop himself, make appearances as Penny, emotionally numbed by her tragedy, reconciles with her parents at the national championship in Wyoming. Throughout, McCaig anthropomorphizes the competing dogs (``Hope grinned at him. `Tomorrow I shall work woolies. Tomorrow and the day after. Oh, I am a fine stockdog' '') in order to evoke their thoughts and emotions. Although this is a less than sophisticated approach to canine consciousness, it effectively makes the dogs an integral part of this unpretentious tale, which is told in lean, crisp prose. Hope in particular, a boundlessly willing, intelligent, powerful and savvy dog who protects and comforts his owner, will win readers' hearts. (May)