A dog's perfect Christmas by W Bruce Cameron
Pan Macmillan, 2020. ISBN: 9781529010114.
(Age: Secondary/Adult) Highly recommended. Winstead, a nine year wolf hound becomes aware one day that his Daddy is sad. His owner gets up in the morning with aching bones and crooked fingers, and turns to the pillow next to his where his wife once slept. Their house has been sold to cover the debts her illness accrued, and he is now living with his son and his family. His granddaughter comes in each morning to wake him, but Ello is a taciturn young girl on the brink of becoming a teen, at odds with everything around her. Her three year old twin brothers, Ewan and Garrett cause mayhem within the household, and mum, Juliana cannot wait to drop all three at school and have some time to herself, going to Target for respite. She is meeting her husband, Hunter for lunch and has something to tell him.
Hunter is given a promotion in his office but warned that a lack of success means being fired. He cannot understand his wife's distress at home, and is at a loss to help with the children or his father, Sander, who counts the pills in the medicine cabinet. This chaotic household is very recognisable and the descriptions poignant and very funny. The readers' involvement builds as Juliana reveals she is very unhappy, Hunter's work nose dives into a scrambled mess, Ello's friends bully her and she is saddled with baby sitting Dad's boss' son, newly arrived at school. When Mum is taken to hospital and the diagnosis becomes dire, the family grows together, helped by the stray puppy Ello has found on her walk home from the skating rink. Named Ruby it becomes part of the family, a crutch for the children as they cope with their mother's illness.
This is a beautifully written story of a family and their fractured relationships, repaired by a stray dog which adopts them. And did I mention this story happens at Christmas, adding another layer of stress and the cold in Michigan in December is finger numbing.
Themes: Family, Death, Christmas, Grandparents, Suicide, Pets, Animals, Twins, Anxiety, Michigan.