Because my husband works at Lemuria, my addiction to reading has a constant stream of books to feed it. Needless to say, I read quite a bit, and it’s always easy to choose my next indulgence, because my husband picks out books for me. He’s awfully good at it, but recently he outdid himself when he placed a book in my hand called Following Atticus. He bought it because the pictures on the cover and in the center fold were so darn cute, but as soon as I began to read, I realized what a gem he’d hit on.
Every once in a while, I find a book so compelling, that once I’ve read it I find myself unable to stop pestering friends to read it, too. This is one of those books. This true story is about a twenty pound miniature schnauzer and a middle-aged, overweight man and their attempt to hike all forty-eight of the deadly four-thousand foot white mountains in New Hampshire. In the wrong hands this could have been a sappy, cliched, cloyingly sweet story perfect for Disney to take on as their next animated feature. Fortunately, when Tom Ryan authored this book, he did it so masterfully that it transcends the simple plot and becomes so much more than a book about a little dog climbing big mountains.
What made the book so good was the love that Ryan clearly has for three things: literature, nature, and, of course, man’s best friend. As I read, I put a sticky note on every page with a quotation from other authors. By the time I was done there were so many bits of paper sticking up out of the top of the book that it looked like it had a mohawk. I got the sense that Ryan was so intimately familiar with the works of Kipling, Lewis, Frost, Emerson, Thoreau, and countless others, that quoting their words came as naturally as breathing. His descriptions of the mountains made me long to be back in my native New England, and see the those mountains again for myself. His account of his faithful companion captured the essence of “dog-ness” as only a real dog lover could.
In the Prologue of Following Atticus, Ryan says “I have come to judge a good story as one that makes me feel as if I’m losing a friend when I read the final page, close the book, and put it down for the last time”. This was one of those books for me. But here’s the best news – when I finished reading, I discovered that it wasn’t actually over. Little Atticus is still climbing mountains, and he has a blog with beautiful writing and photographs. So buy the book, check out the blog for pictures of all of Atticus’ adventures, and I hope you will be as enchanted by Following Atticus as I was.