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.
At the beginning of the book, we read the story of Meredith and her fiance, on that fateful night they went to her favorite restaurant. There was an altercation on the way from the restaurant to their car, and an irate man threw a rock, hitting the fiance in the head and killing him. Most people, the worst thing you can do to them is hurt someone they love. Meredith was no different.
She closed herself off from the world and rarely, if ever, talks about her fiance and that tragedy. Meredith went out as little as possible, and probably would have stayed in bed if she didn't need to eat and use the bathroom. Her work as a writer is suffering, with her agent calling often due to a missed deadline, and no visible progress.
Then, in comes unpredictability in the form of a little Yorkie named Prozac. He was from a litter of pups all named for anti-depressants. I laughed when I first read that. He came to that litter on assignment from the Council, tasked with basically being born and see what pops up. If Prozac does well in that assignment, he has been promised his next gig will be on Broadway in NYC!
Meredith's sister is an accountant, and told an important client that she would pet-sit for Prozac if the client would be in need. Well, the elderly client broke a bone and had to be in rehabilitative therapy for some weeks. But the sister is allergic to dogs. So she has the brilliant idea to help Meredith ease her way back to society by letting her pet sit instead! But Meredith has no wish to go down that road.
Talk about trying to fit a square into a round hole! And Prozac is a registered therapy dog that goes and visits an 'independent living community'. Some of the most memorable of the characters live in this building, which had been their church in previous years.
Now, I was raised to respect my elders. And the judge gets under my skin. She throws her weight around, whether it is with her co-residents or the staff, or ... well, most people. Including Meredith. Let me explain. On her initial visit to Evergreen Gardens, Prozac is very excited and pulls free of the leash, going running into the building leaving Meredith to trail behind. The Judge blackmails Meredith that if she doesn't toe the line, be there on time, the Judge will report Meredith to the local animal protection agency for neglect and abuse.
On the one hand, I want to be a little miffed at Meredith because she doesn't stand up to the Judge. I don't mean tell her where to get off, but there are diplomatic ways to let someone know that you will not be their doormat. But then, Meredith hasn't been out and about for a couple of years, and her people skills are just starting to grow again.
One of the most unique points about "The Thing Is," is that the book is actually narrated by Prozac. So it's kind of fate that I would read this. Because, several months ago, I read a book narrated by a cat, and well, dogs deserve equitable time. When not interacting with Meredith or other people, Prozac tells us about his former lives and all the important people from history (like back to Ancient Egypt - one of my favorite historical periods).
The end of the book will tug at your heartstrings...but you're just going to have to trust me on that .... until you can read it for yourself.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Kathleen Gerard is a writer whose work has been awarded The Perillo Prize, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award and nominated for Best New American Voices and Short Story America, all national prizes in literature. Kathleen writes across genres. Her short prose and poetry have been widely published in magazines, journals and anthologies. Her essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR).
Kathleen’s woman-in-jeopardy novel In Transit> won The New York Book Festival – “Best Romantic Fiction” (2011). Kathleen is a book reviewer for and a contributor to Shelf Awareness and maintains the blog, “Reading Between the Lines.”
(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.)