Apologizing to Dogs

Coomer, Joe

Published by Thorndike Press
ISBN 10: 0786223677 / ISBN 13: 9780786223671
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Synopsis: Times are tough on Worth Row. This is not to say, however, that it is by any means quiet on the Row, a place where bathtubs double as lawn furniture, and adultery, bribery and larceny are as commonplace as the glass eyeballs that pop up in every yard -- all that remains from the prosthetics mill that once sat on this land. For more than thirty years, the Row's antiques dealers have run their businesses from the front rooms of their aging shotgun-style houses. After all this time, their lives have become inextricably linked -- and undeniably complicated. It is suddenly clear that there's more to be exposed on the Row than buried body parts: it seems everyone has something to hide -- from their customers, their spouses, even themselves. And they feel they're being watched....They are.

The seventy-two-year-old widow Effie keeps a minute-by-minute journal of her neighbors' activities, following even stray dogs from house to house, peeking, staring and spying, sure they are all out to steal her past, ruin her future, and plunder her "better things." The fact is, Row residents have far more to concern them than old Effie. Carl, behind curtains he never opens, is using his considerable woodworking talents to turn his life -- and his house -- inside out to prove his devotion to the vintage-clothing dealer Nadine. Howard Dog-in-His-Path, a grave-robbing Indian, keeps count of every pet buried in his neighbors' backyards. The Postlethwaites, running from a tragic past, have retired to long days at the mall photo shop, where they watch pictures of other people's lives roll off the developing machines. Mose, an aged inventor, is trying his hand at the ultimate invention: true love. Mazelle, a used-book dealer, has given up reading because the secret life she lives in the cistern beneath her husband's garden is far more interesting than any fiction. The dog Himself has no greater secret than the location of his next meal, but what he digs up may reveal more than his fellow Row residents would like.

From the quirky to the certifiable, folks on the Row have definitely gotten their lines crossed. When a violent storm strikes, causing fire, a heart attack and grand theft, it stirs up more than just the earth it hits. Suddenly, long-buried truths are flowing faster than the flooding rains. When the dust and smoke finally clear, the Row has been turned upside down and nobody -- human or dog -- will ever be the same again.

With a strong, rich and uproariously funny voice, Joe Coomer resurrects the magic of his previous novels, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God and The Loop, and turns the utterly ordinary into the stunningly extraordinary. With a splendid cast of characters and the cleverest canine in comedy, Apologizing to Dogs is a hilarious, heartwarming and wonderfully human tale and proves that no matter how old you get, there's always something worth holding on to, fighting for and loving with all your might.

Review: About the last thing you'd expect to find on a street arrayed with a dozen antique shops is something novel. Yet Worth Row, the setting for Joe Coomer's eighth book, Apologizing to Dogs, is fairly brimming with surprise and revelation. Romance, thievery, blackmail, and more all come to light on one bewildering day in Fort Worth's historic antique district. By the time the dust has settled, Coomer's quirky cadre of shop owners find their fragile equanimity forever shattered.

Slowly and surely losing patrons to the nearby mall, the Row is presided over by the prim and sentimental clothes dealer Nadine, who is the object of carpenter Carl's desire. His other passion, it turns out, is gutting his house to build the ship that he hopes will ferry Nadine and him to a new life. Meanwhile, Carl's neighbor, the recalcitrant Howard Dog-in-His-Path, conceals a bevy of confidences while loafing in his front-yard tub; the reclusive, paranoid Effie peers through her shutters and transcribes up-to-the-minute neighborhood reports in her journal; and, across the street, Tradio and Arthur are caught between the need to reveal they're lovers and the desire to keep the Row's boat from rocking. Just up the street are Mr. and Mrs. Haygood, and next to them are Mazelle--of Mazelle's Rare and Medium Rare Books--and her husband. These two couples form a love-square that gets dug up, literally, by a curious dog.

Just about every bit of tangled lineage and concealed secret gets exposed in Coomer's outlandish tale. At its best, Apologizing to Dogs reveals the tension between nostalgia and fulfillment, as well as the overwhelming force of our attachments, material or otherwise. "Why do we save old things," Arthur asks Nadine. "Why do we collect these old precious things?" In its improbable eruptions and rambling dialogue, however, the novel occasionally sacrifices verisimilitude for reheated comedy. The paradox of selling the old in order to sustain the present keeps the novel churning along. Soak up the bittersweet laughs, but, as one character says, tellingly, "Don't try to guess the end. Try not to figure it out." --Ben Guterson

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Title: Apologizing to Dogs
Publisher: Thorndike Press

Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Very Good

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