Wilson (The Dog Who Danced, 2012, etc.) pens another mainstream novel whose characters find love and a dog.
Pax, part German shepherd, is a stray puppy, discovered malnourished in a Boston alley by Rick Stanton, a young minor leaguer. Pax becomes the perfect dog, even accepting Francesca, an Iowa girl on a Beantown visit. There’s a whirlwind romance, a marriage, but World War II intervenes. Rick becomes a soldier, as does Keller Nicholson. An orphan, Keller is near-indentured labor for his great-uncle, a reclusive fisherman residing in Hawke’s Cove, near Boston. Keller volunteers as a K-9 scout, and he’s assigned Pax, reluctantly offered to the service by Francesca. Rick’s later wounded in Italy, losing an arm and becoming paraplegic. The war ends, and Keller’s tasked with returning Pax to the Stantons. Lonely and firmly attached to Pax, Keller then becomes Rick’s personal-care attendant. Wilson does credible work in relating the onslaught of anger, guilt and self-pity attacking a person newly disabled. Those emotions are made evident by Rick’s subconscious passive-aggressive scheme to sacrifice himself for Keller and Francesca’s happiness. Keller and Francesca grow attracted to one another, but Wilson lets a reasonable conclusion evolve naturally. In a chronological narrative arc that drifts a bit internally, Wilson’s point of view jumps from Francesca, to Rick, to Keller, to Pax and sometimes to the third person, but it’s not so overdone as to be off-putting.
A Nicholas Sparks–ian romantic drama, with an "everyone loves a dog" twist.