From Donna Cruze, Knox News:
Review: "The Dog Who Danced"
I've had Shelties since 1979, so I'll admit up front that I'm the target audience for "The Dog Who Danced" by Susan Wilson. It's about a Sheltie named Mack who becomes separated from his owner, Justine Meade. While she frantically searches for him across several states, he's found and taken in by a retired couple, Ed and Alice Parmalee.
Wilson captures the delightful personalities of Shetland sheepdogs perfectly. To call them intelligent is an understatement. She describes Mack as having not just genius, but "a Sheltie's proclivity for obedience, as well as a superior sense of dignity. He has always prided himself on being a perfect gentleman." They're very vocal, which means much more than barking, and Mack makes all the little noises and comments my four have done. (Mack also loves "stuffies," which, like my Drew, he shakes, squeaks and uses as pillows intead of disembowling. And yes, it is the cutest thing ever.)
The story begins with Justine hitching a ride with a trucker to take her across the country to see her father, who is dying. She's estranged from him and his second wife and left home the day after she turned 18. She's had a rough life and is now divorced and estranged from her own son. The brightest spot in her life is her blue merle Sheltie, with whom she takes part in canine dance competitions. When she's a few minutes late at a truck stop, her trucker acquaintance, Artie, takes off without her, not realizing Mack is still in his cab. When he discovers him, he turns him loose on a turnpike. This is one of those times I want to murder a fictional character. The idea of a Sheltie lost and alone and missing his owner just kills me.
Mack makes his way to a cemetery, which reminds him of one back home that Justine takes him to for exercise -- parts of the books are charmingly told from Mack's point of view -- decides that's where Justine will find him and waits for her. But the allure of deli roast beef from Alice's hand lures him into her minivan, and she takes him home. Her husband is less than thrilled, and they set out to find his owner amid their own troubles. Their daughter, their only child, died seven years earlier, and Alice still blames Ed. Mack quickly works his way into their hearts and brings them together as he quickly becomes part of their family.
When Alice inadvertently makes some gestures with her hands that Mack recognizes as the ones Justine uses when they do their dance routines, he hops up and does his thing.
A neighbor puts on some music, films them putting on a back-deck show and posts the video to Youtube, setting in motion a bittersweet ending.
"The Dog Who Danced" deals with loss and coming to terms with it. If you're a dog person, you'll love it. If you're a Sheltie person, you must read this book, preferably with your perfect little gentleman (or lady) by your side.
A really nice review from blogger Nancy Patterson. Very thoughtful.
"Dogs work miracles in Wilson's novels..."
Click here to read more:
A lovely review from Becky Holland. Published in her blog A Book and a Grilled PB&J. Funny name, good review.
Review: The Dog Who Danced by Susan WilsonApril 1, 2012
It comes in a very colorful, yet sedate covering, with a picture of a dog Ė smiling within his eyes, head out of a car window, watching the road. And upon opening ďThe Dog Who Danced,Ē you understand that Susan Wilson is going to take you on a journey that could very well change your perspective on how you view yourself and your neighbors down the street.
Justine Meade has never been one who could sit still very long. Therapists would blame it on her background and upbringing, or lack of one. Justine just figures it is her luck Ė everything she considers special sooner or later disappears from her grasp.
That is except her dog, a gray and black Sheltie, named Mack. The two have been partners through some of the most darkest moments in Justineís life and she treasures that relationship.The two prepare for what could be a journey of a lifetime when she is summoned back to her dadís house, as he is dying.
Which is why she is so desperate to find him after a trucker who she hitched a ride with ditches her in a gas station bathroom, and takes off with Mack, asleep in the bunk. The miles between them, or what Justine can guess, grows wider, and the time left to be able to see her dad before he dies is lessening. With the help of her friends from home, and a kind motorcycle rider who picked her up and took her on part of her journey, Justine has to make a choice.
She prays for Mack, and continues to search for him, except from her father and stepmotherís home.
Meanwhile, Mack has found a temporary rest stop after the truck driver dumps him in the road. He is staying in the home of Ed and Alice Parmalee. The Parmalees have faced nothing but heartache and silence since their daughterís death.
It is during this time that Mackís purpose becomes even more clearer Ė instead of herding sheep, perhaps, his job involves people.
ďThe Dog Who Danced,Ē is well-written, well-thought out, and well, one book you will read over and over.
A review from the Wisconsinrapidstribune.com
Book Review: 'Dog Who Danced' will do a two-step on your heart
Who could resist that little urchin face?
The dog staring at you from your computer screen sure was a cutie. He was a stray, found wandering nearby, and nobody came to claim him.
Tempting. But wasn't someone missing that sweet boy? How could anybody refuse those please-love-me eyes?
Alice and Ed Parmalee couldn't, that's for sure. It was easy to fall in love with the Shetland sheepdog, and he was obviously abandoned, but in the new novel "The Dog Who Danced" by Susan Wilson, keeping him might be a delicate ballet.
Justine Meade was certain that the phone call had been just another obligation.
Her stepmother, Adele, must have gritted her teeth when she dialed the number. For nearly 40 years, she'd made it crystal-clear that she didn't want a stepdaughter -- but there she was on the phone, summoning Justine, telling her that her father was dying.
Justine didn't want to go. She'd barely spoken to her father in years because there was nothing to say. Still, there she was, riding shotgun with a bad-tempered trucker, heading for what was once home. At least she had Mack with her.
Justine hadn't wanted to go to the East Coast, in part because she didn't want to leave her dog. Mack was everything to her: protector, best friend and dancing partner. She and Mack loved performing -- they loved being together -- and Justine knew he would be the perfect buffer between her and the family she barely knew.
But then the unthinkable happened.
The trucker, who'd complained about Justine's presence, who said she was the reason he was running late, got fed up. He left her behind in a truck stop.
He left ... with Mack still in the cab.
Ed Parmalee saw the dog as he drove past the cemetery, but he didn't stop. The graveyard held bad memories and the body of Ed's daughter, neither of which Ed wanted to visit any time soon. That must've been the dog Alice mentioned, the one she figured was lost. The one she was going to "rescue."
They should try to find the sheltie's owner. They didn't need a dog.
Ed hadn't seen that hopeful look on Alice's face in a long time.
I did a little dance myself when I got this book. Author Susan Wilson's previous novel is one of my favorites, and I was eager to see if "The Dog Who Danced" could top it.
The answer is: Not quite. But close.
There's no doubt that "The Dog Who Danced" will do a little two-step on your heart. Wilson is, paws-down, a master at character development and it's uncanny how she gets inside the furry heads of her smallest characters. This book is all about the biggest fear of every dog lover, and Wilson plays it well.
Yes, it's a little predictable. Yes, it's a little mushy.
And, yes, you'll love it anyhow, and if you share your life with a dog, this is a book you want. For you, "The Dog Who Danced" simply can't be missed.
Terri Schlichenmeyer is the Bookworm. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She now lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. She can be reached at
THE DOG WHO DANCED
Author: Wilson, Susan
Review Issue Date: February 1, 2012
Online Publish Date: January 23, 2012
Price ( Hardcover ): $24.99
Publication Date: March 13, 2012
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-0-312-67499-1
Love, loss and redemption are explored in Wilsonís (One Good Dog, 2010, etc.) latest mainstream fiction.
As a young girl, Justine Meade lost her mother. Her father quickly married Adele, a stepmother who disliked and mistreated Justine. At 17, Justine left home. She found work in Brooklyn, married the bossí son, but then divorced and began an itinerant life, always ready to move on. Wilson writes Justine in first person, with back story reflecting her never-quite-satisfied adulthood, one fractured by her teenage sonís recent resolution to live with his father. With her own estranged father battling cancer, Justine has been summoned home. Justine lives in Seattle, tends bar and has one maxed-out credit card. So she pays a regular patron $300 to hitch a ride in his long-haul rig, taking along Mack, her Sheltie and one source of unconditional love. On the road, the trucker assumes Justine is willing to share a bed, but Justine refuses. Frustrated, he strands her at an Ohio truck stop. Only when he reaches Massachusetts does the trucker discover Mack in the cabís sleeper. He dumps the dog. In Ohio, Justine reluctantly accepts help from Mitch, a one-legged biker who, belying his gruff exterior, is a symphony violinist. Mitch could only chase the big rig for a short distance, which left Justine in a frantic and uncoordinated pursuit while simultaneously attempting to reach her father in New Bedford. Mitch appears near novelís end, but his likable character deserves more. Meantime, Mack is rescued by Ed and Alice, a couple mired in a miasma of despair over the suicide of their daughter. Instinctively, Mack begins to heal the rift between them. While not detracting from the story, there is predictable anthropomorphism, and Wilson readily relies on a Sheltieís nature and behavior to drive the emotion-packed story to its somewhat too-easy climax.
As with Marley and Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain, itís hard not to like a book where a dog is a major player.
Read more reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.