Deon Lock Maas makes her bittersweet debut with a memoir about caring for her terminally ill husband with the help of a mischievous beagle.
Readers first meet Maas, an art teacher, and Tom, her lawyer husband, while they are receiving devastating news. Despite being just shy of 60, Tom has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and will require extensive treatment and care to manage his slow decline. Immediately, Maas sees her normally gregarious and outgoing husband transformed into a shell of his former self. Doctors search for ways to prolong his life, and not long into the process, Maas is inspired to adopt a beagle for whom she develops an immediate affinity, their empty nest now housing three. It’s quickly apparent that the dog thinks first with his stomach; he’s named Hoover for his ability to find and remove any crumb of food. The book progresses with funny stories about Hoover, anecdotes about Tom’s treatment, Maas’ adjustment to being a caregiver, and the various stresses and strains the situation has placed on both of them. Maas doesn’t go out of her way to sugarcoat things, and despite its serious topic, the book is filled with laughs, lighthearted anecdotes and fond character sketches of Tom’s unique personality. This positive approach helps make the book so endearing. The story begins at a moment of tragedy, but by focusing on the happy moments—the shared laughter, the enduring love—Maas illustrates how grief can be conquered. Hoover is there through it all, typically stealing something off the kitchen table at exactly the moment when Maas and Tom need some comic relief. Dog lovers will delight in the tales of Hoover’s antics and his “naughty and attention-seeking” ways. The book reaches a predictably sad ending, though it feels more like a transition than a conclusion.
For anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one and found comfort in unexpected places, Maas’ honest, touching account will feel welcomingly familiar.