“One Good Dog” by Susan Wilson
c.2010, St. Martin’s Press
$22.99 / $27.99 Canada
311 pages

By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER

There you were, at the top of your game.

You thought you had it all, Midas with the magic touch, Glenda with a magic wand, Superman with a magic cape.

Life was good… for awhile. Then, in what seemed like a microbyte of a nanosecond, the magic touch tarnished, the wand became a cheap sparkler, and the cape was a dishtowel. Everything was gone.

Welcome to the new economy, where you’re not alone. In the new novel “One Good Dog” by Susan Wilson, a man at the top of the heap loses everything and finds what’s important.

Sophie, his assistant, had no idea what she’d done when she wrote those three words, “your sister called”, on the While You Were Out slip. But the second Adam March read those words, his head pounded. He hadn’t seen Vanessa since he was five years old. Her disappearance was the beginning of the end of his childhood. It was impossible that she’d call when he was about to launch a takeover at work. Impossible.

Adam snapped.

It took four middle managers to wrestle him to the ground. It took ten minutes for them to throw him out of the building. Within days, his wife, Sterling, filed for divorce and Sophie filed assault charges. Six months later, Adam lived in an apartment in a row of apartments between the poor side of town and the bad side of town.

And if it wasn’t enough that Sterling kept Adam from seeing their daughter, Ariel, and if it wasn’t enough that Adam lost his job, his house, his money, and his friends, the final outrage was that he was sentenced to work in a soup kitchen for a year, doing manual labor and serving homeless men. The sentence was the final nail in the coffin of indignity for Adam’s life.

Over on the bad side of town, the dog waited in the basement, in a cage. The only life he’d ever known was in the plywood ring where he fought, but he’d heard from practice dogs that there was another life, one of friendly pats and soft beds. He wouldn’t like being submissive, but he was intrigued. Freedom would be nice.

So he bided his time until he could escape…

Take one lost soul, add another lost soul, mix them with average people in a downtrodden neighborhood and you’ve got one of the best books of the year, paws down.

I loved how author Susan Wilson gives voice to both sides of this story, dog and man, and that she doesn’t shy away from the brutality and heartbreak of their lives. I loved the gentle way the story unfolds, too. Would you be surprised if I told you that you’ll be tear-stained by the end of this book?

It’s rare for me to carry a novel everywhere until I finish it, but I did with this one and I doubt you’ll be able to put it down, either.  For sure, “One Good Dog” belongs on the top of everyone’s reading list.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.