A DOG'S GIFT

THE INSPIRATIONAL STORY OF VETERANS AND CHILDREN HEALED BY MAN'S BEST FRIEND

Overly sentimental but a great story nevertheless.

As a “streetwise crime reporter [and] hard-bitten war correspondent,” Men’s Health contributing editor Drury considered himself a “tough guy”—until he decided to write about the nonprofit paws4people, which trains therapy dogs to work with veterans suffering from PTSD.

The organization—which now includes offshoots paws4vets, paws4prisons, and paws4reading—began 14 years ago when Terry Henry, who was trying to cope with the aftermath of field experiences as a counterintelligence officer, accompanied his daughter Kyria and their dog to nursing homes to cheer up elderly shut-ins. Their visits soon branched out to special education classes in their local schools. Over time, they broadened the scope of their activities to include breeding and training services. Henry was so uplifted by the experience, the author writes, that “he threw himself into the cause of healing others through the power of dogs”—and in the process, he healed himself. He and Kyria have placed dogs in the homes of more than 400 children and veterans with physical and mental disabilities, at no charge. In 2010, they were approved by the Department of Defense to run a pilot program to train service dogs to assist veterans on a long-term basis. They solicit contributions to support their operation, which costs approximately $35,000 per dog, and they rely on recruitment of prison inmates as volunteer trainers (as an accredited part of inmate vocational training). Drury traveled with Henry and observed life-changing moments not only for the new dog owners, but also for prisoners whose lives were transformed by becoming trainers. He also chronicles painful occasions when Henry was forced to exclude an unsuitable trainer from the program or eliminate a veteran incapable of forming a relationship to a dog. Even this formerly hard-bitten reporter notes how he teared up on occasion.

Overly sentimental but a great story nevertheless.

Pub Date: May 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62336-101-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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