Monday, July 30, 2007

Book Reviews: Fair is the Rose, Dog World-And the Humans Who Live There

The latest book I've read is Fair is the Rose by Liz Curtis Higgs. As prolific and award-winning as Ms. Higgs has been, this was my first look into her fiction. (I've studied her nonfiction Bad Girls of the Bible).

Fair is the Rose is the 2nd in a series, which I did not know when I chose it, but I was able to jump right in and become engaged in the story line, which can be summed up as: Jamie McKie, Rose and Leana McBride have become mixed up in a love traingle similar to Genesis' Leah, Rachel and Jacob, but the setting is 18th century Scotland. The prose is replete with Scottish vocabulary, which is fun and interesting, except in a few places when it actually detracts from the story itself.

I am not usually a fan of romantic novels, but somehow, this one hooked me, and I'm almost embarrassed to say that during the day I found myself looking forward to late evening, when I allowed myself the joy of reading Fair is the Rose.

No work is perfect, and while there are some contrivances in the story, the plot was quite a page-turner for a book devoid of almost any action/adventure. The main characters were well-rounded, and a couple of the supporting characters were developed, as well. The one support character I would have liked to see dimension in is Lachlan, the representation of the ungracious, miserly biblical Laban.

I will definitely read Whence Comes a Prince, the third installment of the series, very soon.
You say you're not a dog person? Neither was I. Neither was Alfred Gingold, who wrote about his transformation similar to my journey, which is what hooked me. He had me from paragraph one, where he describes how he and his wife were seated in a New York bar (not Europe, please note) where several dogs lay on the floor. Gingold was put off by this odd concession to the dogs and their zealous owners, as I would be. After a more-intimate-than-warranted conversation with one owner, Gingold writes,

Obviously, helping our son was a good reason to get a dog, but not compared to all the good reasons not to: the walks, the shedding, the poo, for starters. Before I could make my case, though, my wife was distracted by one of the bar dogs, a big brown mutt who’d gotten up to stretch and wandered over to our booth. My wife cooed, “Aren’t you pretty?” and petted the creature. Pretty? I smiled gamely in the dog’s general direction. Speaking of game, I noticed the dog had a faint odor. This was before I learned that all dogs have a faint odor. (Actually, you’re lucky if it’s faint. The strange thing is that after a while you get to like it.) My wife petted the dog and the dog leaned into her hand. I noticed a little raw area on the dog’s side, almost on her belly. The owner said quietly, “She’s got a hot spot. Lying on the floor keeps it cool.”

“A hot spot?” I said, apparently a shade too inquisitively, because the man dismounted from his stool and sat down with us. A hot spot, he explained, is an area that a dog rubs and licks until there is an actual break in the skin. Not surprisingly, it is generally considered a sign of stress. “I work at a dot com and I usually bring her in to work with me so that she doesn’t have to be home alone all day,” the man said. “We’ve had to lay off a lot of people lately and it’s become a pretty sad place. That’s when she started this compulsive grooming. They blame themselves, you know. They blame themselves.”

Eventually, man and beast went off dolefully into the night and my wife and I resumed our discussion. I was convinced I could never take proper care of a dog, the way that guy did. That guy was obviously a committed dog owner, tender and devoted. Also crazy as a loon. Therefore, I reasoned keenly, only crazy people should have dogs. Not that I claim to be playing with a full bag of clubs myself, only that my particular pathology does not lead me to seek solace with the four-legged. Even though we were still technically discussing the issue, in my heart, I believed that the whole dog issue was closed.

You would think experience would teach me not to make rash predictions. But if experience has taught me anything, it is that experience rarely teaches me anything.

Isn't that great writing? So honest and personal and witty.

Finally, here is one of my favorite passages which also describes a phenomenon I've noticed in myself since Zoe came to live with us:

Like many neophyte dog owners, I've gone a little nutty. For example, one of my great pleasures in life has always been people watching. I've spent innumerable hours walking happily around the city, scoping the passing parade. Now, when I walk down the street, my gaze rarely rises above knee level. I'm looking at dogs, not people ... This book is the story of a journey into dog personhood.

Did I enjoy this book? I plan to email the author, the first time I've ever done so. This is one of my all-time favorite reads.


Susan said...

Both sound wonderful. I loved Bad Girls of the Bible. Higgs is a wonderful writer with such a bent toward humor that makes you think. I love that.

Thanks for sharing.

:-) Susan

Susanne said...

You gone nutty? Over a dog? Never noticed. ;v)

I think I've created a monster. A fiction gobbling monster. Heavens you are so far ahead of me in reading summer books it's not even funny.

Lisa M said...

Linda ~ what great reviews you've written. Both books sounds good. You know I love dogs so even though I'm trying to curb my book addiction and read the 50 or so books I already have waiting to read at home, I just may sneak out and buy the Dog World book. Tell my friend Zoe I said "Hi". By the way - I got the chocolate bark yesterday and tasted one of the squares. It was sooooooo good! Thanks again! Lisa

Linda said...

Lisa--so glad it came in solid form and not melted! This week in my area, it's supposed to be in the 90s, so I wouldn't have wanted to send it until it cooled down.

Anonymous said...

This series plus the new one after the third are some of my favorite. I love Liz's fiction. I had the chance to meet her once and we share the same shade in mascara, blue! She is a hoot.