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HUCK by Janet Elder


The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family--and a Whole Town--About Hope and Happy Endings

by Janet Elder

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7679-3134-2
Publisher: Broadway

A city family discovers the kindness of country strangers in its search for a lost puppy.

Since the subtitle of New York Times senior editor Elder’s pet memoir alludes to happy endings, it’s hardly giving the plot away to say that her prodigal subject—a small, red-haired toy poodle—was eventually brought back to the fold. Much of the book chronicles the logistical and emotional struggles of the four-day search-and-rescue operation that Elder, her husband and her son initiated in and around Ramsey, N.J., immediately following Huck’s untimely escape from Elder’s sister’s home. During that trying extended weekend, these Manhattanites experienced the warmth of countless Bergen County residents as many joined them in bracing against the chill of March to seek out the lost Huck. “We learned a lot about the heart of a small town and the extraordinary level of concern one stranger can show another,” writes the author. “We learned a lot about ourselves, too, about tenacity and grit and our devotion to one another.” It’s fairly standard Dewey-type fare, but what makes her account peculiar is the framing. Elder acknowledges that “Huck is a part of the chapter of my life titled cancer,” but she prefaces the minutely detailed search and reunion with young Huck with a jarringly vague gloss of her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer just prior to Huck’s arrival in her home. Peppered with tedious encyclopedic descriptions of numerous would-be rescuers, this journalistic tale somehow overlooks salient details of her treatment and reckoning with a life-threatening illness. Such sanitization makes the memoir most appropriate for a YA audience.

Overly sentimental, this feel-good story may leave adult readers wanting.