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ALMOST PERFECT by Diane Daniels Manning.
* I received this book as a free ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review *
In the spirit of full disclosure I picked this book solely based on the fact that it had a picture of a really cute puppy on the cover. The puppy’s name is Breaker and he turns out to be, no surprise, an integral part of this story.
As a young woman Bess Rutledge established Umpawaug Kennels to breed show winning Poodles, now at 70-years-old she feels its time to close the doors. She just has to get through one more litter of puppies sired by her championship winning poodle, McCreery. This will be the last litter for them both after which they will simply be companions in retirement. Bess is hoping to us the time to mend fences with her twin sister Mona and reestablish a relationship with her son David – both having been neglected in favor of her dogs.
Benny Neusner is a troubled young man. He attends a special school and has regular meetings with Dr. Kate to hopefully help him get over his anger issues; issues quite probably caused by his parents divorcing, his father remarrying and his mother’s apparent lack of interest.
The one thing Benny wants more than anything in the world is a dog.
On a snowy evening, as Benny wanders through Bess’ property on his way home having been disappointed once again by his mother, fate brings McCreery and Benny together. It’s love at first sight for both of them. It’s also the beginning of a sometimes touching and occasionally mutually manipulative relationship between Benny and Bess.
This book is filled with characters that have personal flaws, problems with trust, relationship issues and personal agendas. I had a difficult time enjoying “Almost Perfect” as I started reading because it didn’t seem like there was a likeable one in the bunch. Even the dog had an agenda. I know Benny was a “tweenager” with problems but that didn’t stop me from disliking every word that came out of his mouth and every action he took. I found his character annoying and admittedly, though it took a couple of chapters, I did get over all that. Ms. Manning has woven an intricate tale of how a group of people, each with their own flaws, can gather strength from each other; learn to trust again, heal their hearts and even achieve some dreams given up long ago – with the help of a couple of really cute (and determined) dogs.
I liked this book. The story was sweet. It contains some important lessons about family, trust and understanding. I learned a lot about the world of dog shows and show dogs as well. That was not only an integral but also a very interesting element in this book. Although McCreery and Breaker do tend to take center stage in this book because they have strong “dog personalities”, they neither talk nor do anything even remotely un-dog-like.
As advertised on the cover this book that will definitely appeal to a wide audience of readers. I would consider it G-rated – it is most certainly an quick, enjoyable read for adults yet you could feel quite comfortable reading it aloud to children ready for chapter books or gift it to your maiden aunt who enjoys “cozy” reads.
It’s an all around charming story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website)
Diane Daniels Manning is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas which helps children dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.
When not at The New School, Diane and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty and a rescue cat named Elvira, convene at the keyboard to share great thoughts and plan the dinner menu.