Second Chance by Elizabeth Wrenn
|Second Chance by Elizabeth Wrenn|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Deena Munger, the invisible middle-aged female, decides to take control of her life and volunteers to take a puppy who will be trained as a guide dog. You'll laugh and you'll cry - but you'll love it. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 464||Date: September 2007|
Deena Munger is middle-aged. She's housewife, mother, chief cook and bottle washer to her husband and three children. She's also invisible. This is a phenomenon which will be familiar to many middle-aged women: they exist, not as themselves, but only in relation to other people and specifically in respect of what they can do for others. They're assumed to have no feelings, no needs and to be constantly available.
Husband Neil, a doctor, doesn't want a dog because they're tying. So... he's not best pleased when Deena starts to take control of her life by becoming a volunteer puppy walker and Heloise comes into their lives. Heloise is in training to become a working guide dog for a blind person. For the first year or so of the puppy's life they live with a family to get their basic training and socialisation. They then move on from the family and are trained specifically to become a guide dog.
If you're planning on reading this book the first thing that you're going to need is a full box of Kleenex tissues. I could have cried before the dogs even came into the story - Elizabeth Wrenn's depiction of middle-aged female invisibility is perfect. She has all the nuances, the small slights and the larger omissions that women of a certain age somehow absorb and feel that they have no right to complain. I empathised completely with Deena Munger - not least when she came to the realisation that much of what had happened to her had been brought on by her own actions. I was shocked when I realised the extent to which the view that 'if you have a boyfriend, you put him before your other friends' is passed down the generations.
You'll really make inroads into the Kleenex when the dogs make their entrance - or their exit. I had tears running down my face when I read about the sixteen-year-old boy who was crying into the neck of the family's dog as they waited for it to be taken away. Families waiting to collect their puppies know that they will be in that position in a year or so. But, just when the pile of tissues starts mounting up, you'll find yourself laughing as Deena, an inexperienced dog owner, tries to control this ten-week-old bundle of fur and mischief. If you've never owned a dog then this book will tell you what those first few days and weeks are really like - and they're not easy. Wrenn has the knack of never leaving you crying for too long - there's always the lighter moment.
Elizabeth Wrenn raised a working guide dog puppy as research for this book and whilst the UK system differs slightly the basic principles are the same. The dog is being reared to work rather than to be a pet and there are restrictions on what the family can and can't do with the dog. The input from the volunteer and the family is substantial and that's all captured in the book - not in a heavy way, just telling it the way it is. The good, the bad and the puddles (and worse) are all there.
Although Heloise is the star of the book, it's not a book about puppy walking, as it would be called in the UK. The book is about Deena and a situation which looks as though it might destroy her marriage and break her family apart. One child has already flown the nest and it can't be long before the other two follow him. Her husband is tied up in his job to the extent that he's almost a stranger in the family home. This is about how Deena once again takes control of her life and looks at what she can make of it. It's superb and highly recommended by The Bookbag.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag - and to mention that a box of Kleenex would have been appreciated too.
If you're interested in dogs then you might also appreciate Tamar Geller's The Loved Dog which looks at the kindest way of training dogs. For another book about a woman facing changes in middle age we can recommend Stage by Stage by Jan Jones. If you're interested in stories about a dog then we don't think that you can do better than Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres.
You can read more book reviews or buy Second Chance by Elizabeth Wrenn at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Second Chance by Elizabeth Wrenn at Amazon.com.
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