Dog Rescue. Human redemption. Journalism. Following Atticus by Tom Ryan was meant for me. I might not have found the book, had it not been for my friend Kate’s declaration that “I think you’d like it.”
The last book Kate recommended was Quiet — the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She was right that time as well. Generally when a good friend recommends a book, I assume that she feels I will learn something or have something in my life confirmed. Kate’s suggestion also came just as I was breaking in the Kindle Fire HD I’d received as a Christmas present. My first download was October Run … well of course, right? My second was Following Atticus.
From the opening pages about small town politics and running the alternative paper, The Undertoad in Newburyport, Ryan had my attention. I’m a contributor and partner in The Groton Line, with my husband Art Campbell. It’s his baby but like any baby, I get caught up in the squalling, feeding and other demands of the paper (not Art). Tom Ryan’s descriptions of the underside of local politics rang true both for the Groton Line and for my first job out of college covering City Hall politics for the Westport News.
Small town journalism would only have held me for a chapter. Been there, done that. It was Ryan’s rescue of an aging mini-Schnauzer, Max, that caught me. Max comes… and goes. Atticus arrives and we’re off with Ryan climbing the 48 White Mountain peaks over 4,000 feet. Multiple times. Forced into quiet time with a case of the flu, I settled in with my Kindle and became an armchair mountaineer. Ryan’s struggles with blizzards are reflections of his own internal storms. He grapples the questions as big as the peaks–family, job, the meaning of life.
Atticus stole my heart. Though he was not a rescue pup like Waffles, my own black and white ball of fur and attitude, Atticus has a personality that cuts through the frozen terrain. And Ryan lets him shine. Atticus is also a mini-Schnauzer, like his predecessor, Max. Atticus came from a breeder named Paige. We come to know Paige as the voice of wisdom. Ryan turns to her again and again in long phone calls. He’s seeking guidance about Atticus but also grounding for himself. I found myself wishing for a Paige in my life–someone who provided the simple answers to the knotty questions. And only a phone call away.
Remarkably, Ryan finds answers in his quest. It’s a satisfying, lyrical read. Before I’d finished paging through the book on my Kindle, I’d flipped over to Facebook and found Following Atticus, with its 11,000 fans. And became one. And ditto with Twitter. I wasn’t ready for the journey to end.
From Kate to me to you, Follow Atticus. You may find a bit of yourself along the way.