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Saturday, October 29, 2011
Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship (audiobook)by Tom Ryan
A story of a man and his dog and so much more
Read by the author, Tom Ryan
Duration: 9 and 1/2 hours.
Published: 2011 by Harper Audio
At first glance, this is a simple book: A man gets a dog and the dog changes his life. This is true, but this book is so much more than that. Tom Ryan has written a deep, thoughtful book about a man and his dog, but also about a man and his work, fathers and sons, the relationship between man and nature and men and women. In short, this book about a little dog and a lot of hikes in the woods is also a book about life itself.
Tom Ryan is the editor of the upstart newspaper the Undertoad in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He has a full life with plenty of friends, a fulfilling job and all of the challenges of a small business. An exceptional elderly dog comes into his life and he realizes he has been missing some things, especially companionship and love. When that dog passes away, Ryan quickly buys another and he and his new dog, Atticus M. Finch, quickly bond. They literally go everywhere together - board meetings, restaurants, nature walks, business meetings.
Those nature walks grow into full blown hikes up to the peaks of New Hampshire's 48 4,000 foot tall peaks. Tom and Atticus become consumed by the desire to climb all 48 of them and they quickly become the least likely pair to ever accomplish this feat: a middle aged overweight man with no experience and his 20 pound miniature schnauzer. Tom and Atticus roam these mountain peaks seeking the solitude of his thoughts and an escape from the pressures of running his newspaper.
Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes profoundly sad, Tom Ryan's memoir of their adventures is more than just the tale of their adventures - it is also the tale of his difficult relationship with his father, the difficulties of loosing friends to cancer, the joys of nature, and a running commentary on many of New England's most famous authors and their thoughts on the natural world. I literally knew nothing about New Hampshire's 48 peaks (or schnauzers - I am a beagle man myself, although we currently have a Jack Russell terrier) and I really don't have a lot in common with Tom Ryan, but he took me into a whole new world and made it alive for me as I drove back and forth across my city this week and for that, I have to thank him. It makes for a fascinating book and one that I am pleased to recommend to all readers (or listeners), not just dog lovers.
Tom Ryan narrated the book and I am glad that he choose to read it himself rather than hiring a professional reader. Usually, the author-as-narrator is, at best, a mixed bag. In this case, Ryan's New England accent made the story work all the better (I love regional accents!) and he is quite adept at portraying the emotions of the moment in his voice. I cannot imagine how it could have been performed any better by a professional and I recommend the audiobook version over the printed version because of his performance and what it adds.
Tom Ryan updates the world on his adventures with Atticus on his blog "The Adventures of Tom and Atticus."
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here:
Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship
Reviewed on October 29, 2011.