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Posted April 12, 2010
Compelling realism infused with humor
Loveable loser Paul Gustavson is forced to re-evaluate his own life when his father has a debilitating stroke, and Paul is asked to help his father learn to communicate again. "I Thought You Were Dead" features the long-standing relationship between Paul and his golden lab/German shepherd mix, Stella.
This relationship seems to be the most successful of Paul's life. He is a divorced work-from-home writer whose strained relationship with his family is OK because he lives so far away from them. Paul is currently dating Tamsen, who is much hotter than Paul, and she is also dating another man.
Fifteen-year-old Stella has continence issues and Paul has to life her up and down so she can get around, but her mind is sharp, as shown by the frequent conversations she and Paul have. Stella advises Paul on all areas of his life, and knows him better than any human ever could. She also accompanies Paul to the dive bar where he hangs out daily. When Paul comes home she greets him with, "I thought you were dead," as dogs have no sense of time.
When Paul's father suffers a stroke he flies home to be with his family. The stroke is much worse than Paul feared, with his father having no communicative ability. A system is set up where the only way Paul's father can communicate is by pushing a button signifying "yes" or "no" on a computer set up close to his hospital-grade bed in the main level of Paul's parents' house. It is determined that Paul can help his father rehabilitate by being the one who draws his father out via internet conversations.
These conversations turn out to be therapeutic for Paul after some rough going early on.
Paul's relationship with Tamsen is getting harder for him to deal with, mainly because he fears Tamsen's other boyfriend is going to give her more what she wants than Paul can. He begins drawing away from her, thinking that will eventually make her happier.
Then another tragedy strikes. And this one sends Paul into a depression, realizing his life will never be the same. It also forces him to deal with relationships and real-life issues that he has been skirting for a while.
This story would be very difficult to read, if not for the consistent humor the author infuses into the book. A truly compelling, realistically flawed main character, offset by a not so realistic but completely lovable talking dog make this a story you don't want to put down.
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Posted July 9, 2010
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