Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the world of 'feel good' stories, this one is tops. In a time where too many people do not take the time to smell the roses anymore, Tom Ryan not only realized that he was one of them, but he took the steps necessary to change that. With the help of his adorable and adventures miniature schnauzer, Atticus, Tom decided to tackle all of 48 of the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire's White Mountains and prove that "if an overweight middle-aged fellow with a fear of heights and a twenty pound miniature schnauzer could hike the 4,000 footers, nearly anyone could".
Not only did Tom find the love he had been looking for himself through his friendship with Atticus, he was able to share it with us so that we can fall as much in love with this little dog as he has. Tom treats Atticus the way he would want to be treated, encouraging him to be himself so that they can be successful together. Several times throughout this novel, I found myself thinking of Enzo from The Art of Racing in the Rain - Atticus cames across as almost human in Tom's descriptions, and I can picture Atticus and Enzo in front of the television, arguing over whether to watch auto racing or Nat Geo (except of course that Atticus would like be out hiking and not watching television!).
Tom is openly candid about his faults, his families faults and the faults of just about everyone around him, but he writes it in an honest and sincere way that does not offend, but just lends more weight and substance to his already inspiring story. He is not trying to tell us he is perfect, or that he expects anyone else to be. Instead, through simple but moving lines like "Magic is where you find it; the only thing that matters is that you take the time to look for it", he is telling us to be the best that we can be.
This is a 5 star story for me, but my only qualm is the 3 star writing (hence my 4 star rating). While much of the writing is straighforward, humorous, candid and easy to absorb, a few things keep hanging me up. First, and while I know this is not personal or likely intentional, he has a knack for repeating key items a few too many times, making the reader feel as though the expectation is that we won't be able to remember something told to us 3, 4, 5 times already. Second, his flair for the dramatic is a bit overboard in a few areas, such as the foreshadowing of "big" events to come that seem to appear at the end of at least every other chapter.
Overall, a fantasitc read that I would recommend for anyone who loves dogs, loves the outdoors, likes to see the best in people, or just wants some good old fashioned inspiration and reminder of the power of the human spirit.
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