Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Debut Fiction -

Kathryn Don­ahue, North Star Edi­tions (NOVEM­BER), Soft­cover $14.99 (360pp), 978-1-63583-902-9 Fan­ci­ful sto­ries within the story are en­joy­able all on their own. Kathryn Don­ahue’s The Dog Walker’s Di­ary is a smart and com­plex take on modern-day re­la­tion­ship dy­nam­ics that uti­lizes a story-within-as­tory frame­work.

When busy Los An­ge­les lit­er­ary agent Daniel hires An­nie Do­herty to walk his dogs, it’s the start of a lively con­nec­tion. It’s also a much-needed dis­trac­tion for him in the midst of his midlife is­sues.

An­nie is a fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ter—a fresh­faced, un­com­pli­cated Ir­ish lass, though her mo­tives come to be ques­tioned. She weaves fab­u­lous tales around the true lives of Daniel’s dogs, Ed­die and Sparks, in­trigu­ing Daniel with their ad­ven­tures, which may or may not con­tain clues about An­nie and Daniel’s own grow­ing re­la­tion­ship. These fan­ci­ful sto­ries within the story are en­joy­able all on their own.

At first, Daniel and An­nie con­nect solely through the notebook in which she writes those sto­ries. Their back-and-forth writ­ten con­ver­sa­tions are lay­ered and re­veal­ing. The pace of this cor­re­spon­dence be­tween the cou­ple is la­conic and easy­go­ing, and the sto­ries them­selves are far re­moved from Daniel’s stress­ful day to day.

Writ­ing else­where is brisk, in­tel­li­gent, and poignant, with re­al­is­tic and droll di­a­logue. An­nie speaks with an au­then­tic Ir­ish lilt. Char­ac­ters are made be­liev­able with a nar­ra­tive pep­per­ing of in­sight­ful per­sonal de­tails.

When the real world dra­mat­i­cally in­ter­cedes in An­nie and Daniel’s bur­geon­ing re­la­tion­ship about three-fourths of the way in, it is jar­ring and dis­con­cert­ing. The tone of the book turns sus­pense­ful, and the re­al­ism be­comes un­com­fort­able when Daniel’s life is turned com­pletely up­side down in the worst way imag­in­able.

Though un­usu­ally framed, The Dog Walker’s Di­ary cap­tures and re­tains at­ten­tion with its mul­ti­lay­ered, modern themes and very lik­able pro­tag­o­nists. ROBIN FAR­RELL EDMUNDS

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