The Thing Is by Kathleen Gerard
Meredith Mancuso is depressed. Ever since the death of her fiancé, she has shrunk from the world. Even with her successful writing career, she’s not motivated to work. When her sister, Monica, begs for a favor, Meredith wants nothing more than to say no. But she’s ultimately roped into pet-sitting an orphaned Yorkshire terrier named Prozac.
Blessed with spiritual wisdom and a high IQ, Prozac is an active pet therapy dog. To heal broken-hearted Meredith, he rallies his fan club at Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where he visits each week.
Prozac and the community of resilient older folks challenged by losses of their own propel Meredith, often against her will, back into the land of the living. Meredith learns that most people carry some sort of burden, but it’s still possible to find meaning, purpose, and joy—and sometimes, even love—along the way.
I am not an animal lover…at all, but I was intrigued by the grief aspect of this story. I decided to give it a chance because of the Yorkie on the cover. My parents have a Yorkie, named B.G. (short for “Big Guy”), and he’s the only dog that I kind of care about. I’m a heartless person. I know.
Meredith is a romance writer who’s in a depressive rut after the death of her fiance three years ago. She’s unable to write, and she doesn’t even really leave her apartment if she can avoid it. Her sister, Monica, forces her to watch her client’s dog after the older woman injures her foot and needs surgery. Monica had agreed to take the dog herself, but she’s allergic. Meredith, like me, doesn’t like dogs, and she is reluctant to keep Prozac.
Prozac is a very unusual dog. He’s a certified therapy dog, so Meredith is expected to take him to Evergreen Gardens for visits with “his people.” Many antics ensue with Prozac, Meredith, and the residents of the retirement community. Some were entertaining, and some were a little over the top. At times I was reminded of watching The Golden Girls.
The book is told in two view points: Meredith, who I loved, especially when she was bantering with her sister, and Prozac, who we learn is actually on assignment as a spirit guide dog. Think It’s a Wonderful Life, but instead of an angel, it’s a dog assigned to help Meredith. Prozac’s chapters dragged a little bit for me, especially at the beginning.
Ultimately, I enjoyed reading about Meredith being drawn out of her reclusive shell, and Prozac was the impetus to that change. Having him in her life brought her to some new relationships that I really liked, but in the end the dog-parts were just too doggy for me. I think dog-lovers will enjoy this book a lot more than I did.
My Rating: 3 stars
Understand my ratings.
Interview with Kathleen Gerard:
1. There are many “coping with grief” books out there, and I really enjoy those types of stories, which is what intrigued me about your book. Most of them center around romance. Instead you chose to center yours around a new relationship with a dog, and a very unique dog at that! What part of this story came to you first?
This book IS a romance and a love story. In a broad, abstract sense it asks the question: After life breaks your heart, how do fall in love with living again? Prozac is the catalyst to force change in the life of a woman paralyzed and heartbroken by grief. I knew the tragedy inflicted upon Meredith’s life would be heavy and hard to sustain for a whole book. Therefore, knowing what a comfort and joy my own dog is to me in my own life–how my own dog leads me to other people–it seemed a logical way to balance out the grief aspects of the story. That’s why the grief and the dog angle came together in the writing simultaneously. Grief and hope can be two sides of the same coin.
2. If you didn’t answer it in your response to question #1: Are you a dog lover? Why did you choose for Prozac to be a Yorkie?
Yes, I am a dog lover. I’ve shared my life with dogs since I was a kid, and I’ve spent more than three decades with Yorkshire terriers–three of them, one at a time. I’ve found the breed to super-smart, lovable and often a bit devious…so much so, that I’ve often referred to my own as “Yorkshire terrorists” 🙂
3. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where one of the narrators was an animal. What was your inspiration for having Prozac narrate some of the chapters?
Meredith is a grief-stricken, self-isolating person who lives alone. To have her, in her grief, narrate the whole book would be an overwhelming burden to the reader. There had to be some force to jolt her out of the rut of her life. Therefore, I felt telling half of the story from the dog’s perspective–his craftiness and cleverness, along with his comic self-importance– would be a great contrast to Meredith and her predicament. And I upped the ante even more by making Meredith canine-averse and having Prozac–much-beloved, coddled and worshipped–often offended by her reactions to him.
4. I loved the sister relationship between Meredith and Monica. Do you have a sister? Did you draw from your own relationship for this story?
Yes, I have two sisters – two older sisters who are far more gifted, talented, accomplished and creative than I will ever be! I’m sure my being a sister–and having sisters–in many ways colored the sisterly interactions in the story. However, the sister in THE THING IS is a composite – all of the characters I create in each of my stories are conflated from people I’ve encountered and/or manufactured.
5. Who was your favorite character to write and why?
The book appears to be, at it’s core, Meredith and Prozac’s story – and I enjoyed inhabiting both of their psyches. But the beauty of the book is its ensemble cast, where supporting characters are just as important as the key players. Yes, Prozac is the catalyst that changes many lives. And while some people have pigeonholed the book as a “dog story” – I find that rather limiting and narrow. The novel is about so much more than the dog…the dog is simply a guiding spiritual force that leads people, often hurting people, to other people. And that’s the point of the book. No man is an island. We are all connected. We all share grief, and we’re all trying to surmount heart-breaks of some kind in order to find healing and hope. Therefore, there is some part in each character that holds a special appeal to me…The depth of Meredith’s emotions interested me just as much as Prozac’s comic craftiness and Monica’s staunch workaholism….The off-beat zaniness of Ham and David (the magician) appealed to me just as much as the hard-line tactics of Judge Thea and the (good natured) manipulation of Annette Mahoney…So I guess I don’t really have a favorite character.
Kathleen, thank you so much for your time in answering my questions and for the opportunity to read your book. I think it is really a great story even if it didn’t work 100% for me.