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Must Love Dogs

Must Love Dogs

4.0 41
by Claire Cook

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First the USA Today bestselling novel. Then the big screen romantic comedy movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. Now MUST LOVE DOGS is a series and this is Book 1!

"Voluptuous, sensuous, alluring and fun. Barely 40 DWF seeks special man to share starlit nights. Must love dogs."

Life after divorce for Sarah Hurlihy consists of juggling her job as a preschool


First the USA Today bestselling novel. Then the big screen romantic comedy movie starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. Now MUST LOVE DOGS is a series and this is Book 1!

"Voluptuous, sensuous, alluring and fun. Barely 40 DWF seeks special man to share starlit nights. Must love dogs."

Life after divorce for Sarah Hurlihy consists of juggling her job as a preschool teacher and the demands of her interfering family. Then her bossy big sister decides to place a personal ad for her, and the wild ride begins.

Sarah is about to meet her first date in more than a decade. She is scanning her neighborhood café for the man with a yellow rose. And find him she does, but he's the last person on the planet she expects to see....

"A hilariously original tale about dating and its place in a modern woman's life."-BookPage

"Can another novel about a 40-year-old divorcee creating a new life for herself actually be of interest? Surprisingly, yes . . . this novel is a hoot."-The Boston Globe

"Funny and pitch-perfect."-Chicago Tribune

"This utterly charming second novel by Cook is a fun read, perfect for whiling away an afternoon on the beach."-Library Journal

"'Eternally hopeful book reviewer seeks wildly witty novel on singles scene/personal ads. Stylish prose and sense of humor preferred. Looking for fun, not longterm entanglement. Must love readers.' Respondents to such an ad might include Claire Cook, whose new novel, Must Love Dogs, tells the story of a down-to-earth divorcee seeking companionship through the personals . . ."-USA Today

"Cook dishes up plenty of charm." -San Francisco Chronicle

"[A] laugh-out-loud novel, a light and lively read for anyone who has tried to re-enter the dating scene or tried to 'fix up' somebody else."-Boston Herald

"Claire Cook's "Must Love Dogs," a book that's got more giggles than soda bread has raisins."-Hartford Courant

"[A] tart slice-of-the-single-life...breezy first-person narration...fast-paced"- Publishers Weekly

"If Must Love Dogs is any indication of her talents, readers will hope that Claire Cook will be telling breezy summer stories from the South Shore of Massachusetts for seasons to come."-The Washington Post

"Claire Cook's characters aren't rich or glamorous- they're physically imperfect, emotionally insecure, and deeply familiar. Must Love Dogs is a sweet, funny novel about first dates and second chances." -Tom Perrotta

"This story is so delicious, so funny, so warm, that one engages on the first page and still wants more on the last. A truly joyful read." -Jeanne Ray

"Reading Claire Cook's Must Love Dogs is like sitting down with a close friend -- a really entertaining close friend. Its heroine will strike a familiar chord in any woman who's been through a divorce, dusted herself off, and ventured back into the dating jungle. Funny and quirky and honest." -Jane Heller

"Reading Must Love Dogs is like having lunch with your best friend -- fun, breezy and full of laughs." - Lorna Landvik

"Can another novel about a 40-year-old divorcee creating a new life for herself actually be of interest? Surprisingly, yes . . . this novel is a hoot." -The Boston Globe

"In an age when whiny novels about 30-something "singletons" whose sole goal in life seems to be snagging a decent man, Must Love Dogs is a refreshing antidote. . . .Reading about Sarah Hurlihy's travails is like talking to a comedic, self-deprecating friend. Cook's humor breezes through the pages as she details the perils-and perks-of plunging back into the dating scene." -Book Page

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"I've lived in Marshbury all of my life, and never even knew it had a trailer park. My father was way ahead of me, of course. He'd not only located the trailer park, he'd found a woman there to date."

Forty-year-old preschool teacher Sarah Hurlihy thought she'd set herself up for a great life. She'd married the man she loved. They bought a house, decorated it, and then sat, looking at each other, trying to remember why they'd gotten married in the first place. But Sarah didn't have to wonder for long; her husband took up with a younger woman, sounding the death knell for their marriage, and propelling Sarah back into singlehood -- at the same time as her newly widowed father.

Thrown unwillingly into the suburban dating pool alongside her dad, Sarah is ambivalent about the whole process, despite her ticking clock and thoughts that she might enjoy a child of her own. But Sarah's large, loving Irish clan comes to her rescue -- her married sister placing a personal ad in her name and regularly monitoring Sarah's dating progress; and her brother, Michael, helps her feel lovable when he seeks out her comfort and advice while riding out his own rocky marriage.

In Must Love Dogs, Claire Cook ably captures the pitfalls of the midlife singles' scene, with a generous dose of humor and a heaping portion of characters who know better than to take themselves too seriously. (Summer 2002 Selection)

Publishers Weekly
Following up on themes from her debut novel, Ready to Fall, which looked at the pitfalls of cyberspace romance, Cook here chronicles the perils of various tried and true dating ploys, from personals ads to the use of adorable pooches as date bait. "If I didn't have a job, I might have stayed in bed until I rotted," muses Massachusetts preschool teacher Sarah Hurlihy, almost 41, divorced and dateless for two years. She's out to change all that when she bravely answers a personals ad in a local paper, but instead gets the ultimate nightmarish response her would-be date turns out to be her widower father, something her sprawling Irish Catholic family naturally finds wildly funny. Her oldest sister, Carol, decides the best way for Sarah to move on is to create her own personals ad, and soon Sarah's love life is lively, if not downright rambunctious. "God hates glib," "God hates ugly" and "God hates a smarty-pants" are all standards in the Hurlihy family lexicon, but Cook employs just enough glibness and smarty-pants humor to make this tart slice-of-the-single-life worth reading. As for "ugly," Sarah also learns some serious lessons about what the word really means and it's not a prospective suitor's nose hairs, his bald pate or his beer-belly bulge. Breezy first-person narration makes this a fast-paced, humorous diversion. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This utterly charming second novel by Cook (Ready To Fall) is a fun read, perfect for whiling away an afternoon on the beach. Sarah Hurlihy is 40 years old, divorced, and happily teaching preschoolers a multicultural curriculum. But her interfering, overzealous Boston Irish family thinks that she should be dating, and with much love she is pushed into answering a personal ad from a gentleman seeking a lady "who enjoys elegant dining, dancing and the slow bloom of affection"; the clincher is that he's a man who "loves dogs." That man turns out to be the last man on earth any woman would want to date, but Sarah pushes on, slowly falling headlong into the dating game with decidedly mixed results. Meanwhile, Sarah's widowed father has his own dating troubles, brother Michael is deep in marital problems, and sister Carol is having difficulty at home with her temperamental teenage daughter, who turns to her favorite aunt for comfort and body-piercing support. Somehow, they all seem to end up on Sarah's doorstep at the most inopportune moments, keeping the laughs going all the way to the not-quite-storybook-perfect ending. Suitable for all public libraries. Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Marshbury Beach Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt


I decided to listen to my family and get back out there. "There's life after divorce, Sarah," my father proclaimed, not that he'd ever been divorced.

"The longer you wait, the harder it'll be" was my sister Carol's little gem, as if she had some way of knowing whether or not that was true.

After months of ignoring them, responding to a personal ad in the newspaper seemed the most detached way to give in. I wouldn't have to sit in a restaurant with a friend of a friend of one of my brothers, probably Michael's, but maybe Johnny's or Billy Jr.'s, pretending to enjoy a meal I was too nervous to taste. I needn't endure even a phone conversation with someone my sister Christine had talked into calling me. My prospect and I would quietly connect on paper or we wouldn't.

HONEST, HOPELESSLY ROMANTIC old-fashioned gentleman seeks lady friend who enjoys elegant dining, dancing and the slow bloom of affection. WM, n/s, young 50's, widower, loves dogs, children and long meandering bicycle rides.

The ad jumped out at me the first time I looked. There wasn't much competition. Rather than risk a geographic jump to one of the Boston newspapers, I'd decided it was safer and less of an effort to confine my search to the single page of classifieds in the local weekly. Seven towns halfway between Boston and Cape Cod were clumped together in one edition. Four columns of "Women Seeking Men." A quarter of a column of "Men Seeking Women," two entries of "Women Seeking Women," and what was left of that column was "Men Seeking Men."

I certainly had no intention of adding to the disheartening surplus of heterosexual women placing ads, so I turned my attention to the second category. It was comprised of more than its share of control freaks, like this guy-Seeking attractive woman between 5'4" and 5'6", 120-135 lbs., soft-spoken, no bad habits, financially secure, for possible relationship. I could picture this dreamboat making his potential relationships step on the scale and show their bank statements before he penciled them in for a look-see.

And then this one. Quaint, charming, almost familiar somehow. When I got to the slow bloom of affection, it just did me in. Made me remember how lonely I was.

I circled the ad in red pen, then tore it out of the paper in a jagged rectangle. I carried it over to my computer and typed a response quickly, before I could change my mind:

Dear Sir:

You sound too good to be true, but perhaps we could have a cup of coffee together anyway-at a public place. I am a WF, divorced, young 40, who loves dogs and children, but doesn't happen to have either.

-Cautiously Optimistic

I mailed my letter to a Box 308P at the County Connections offices, which would, in turn, forward it. I enclosed a small check to secure my own box number for responses. Less than a week later I had my answer:

Dear Madam,

Might I have the privilege of buying you coffee at Morning Glories in Marshbury at 10 AM this coming Saturday? I'll be carrying a single yellow rose.

-Awaiting Your Response

The invitation was typed on thick ivory paper with an actual typewriter, the letters O and E forming solid dots of black ink, just like the old manual of my childhood. I wrote back simply, Time and place convenient. Looking forward to it.

I didn't mention my almost-date to anyone, barely even allowed myself to think about its possibilities. There was simply no sense in getting my hopes up, no need to position myself for a fall.

I woke up a few times Friday night, but it wasn't too bad. It's not as if I stayed up all night tossing and turning. And I tried on just a couple of different outfits on Saturday morning, finally settling on a yellow sweater and a long skirt with an old-fashioned floral print. I fluffed my hair, threw on some mascara and brushed my teeth a second time before heading out the door.

Morning Glories is just short of trendy, a delightfully overgrown hodgepodge of sun-streaked greenery, white lattice and round button tables with mismatched iron chairs. The coffee is strong and the baked goods homemade and delicious. You could sit at a table for hours without getting dirty looks from the people who work there. The long Saturday-morning take-out line backed up to the door, and it took me a minute to maneuver my way over to the tables. I scanned quickly, my senses on overload, trying to pick out the rose draped across the table, to remember the opening line I had rehearsed on the drive over.

"Sarah, my darlin' girl. What a lovely surprise. Come here and give your dear old daddy a hug."

"Dad? What are you doing here?"

"Well, that's a fine how-do-you-do. And from one of my very favorite daughters at that."

"Where'd you get the rose, Dad?"

"Picked it this morning from your dear mother's rose garden. God rest her soul."

"Uh, who's it for?"

"A lady friend, honey. It's the natural course of this life that your dad would have lady friends now, Sarry. I feel your sainted mother whispering her approval to me every day."

"So, um, you're planning to meet this lady friend here, Dad?"

"That I am, God willing."

Somewhere in the dusty corners of my brain, synapses were connecting. "Oh my God. Dad. I'm your date. I answered your personal ad. I answered my own father's personal ad." I mean, of all the personal ads in all the world I had to pick this one?

My father looked at me blankly, then lifted his shaggy white eyebrows in surprise. His eyes moved skyward as he cocked his head to one side. He turned his palms up in resignation. "Well, now, there's one for the supermarket papers. Honey, it's okay, no need to turn white like you've seen a ghost. Here. This only proves I brought you up to know the diamond from the riffraff."

Faking a quick recovery is a Hurlihy family tradition, so I squelched the image of a single yellow rose in a hand other than my father's. I took a slow breath, assessing the damage to my heart. "Not only that, Dad, but maybe you and I can do a Jerry Springer show together. How 'bout 'Fathers Who Date Daughters'? I mean, this is big, Dad, the Oedipal implications alone-"

"Oedipal, smedipal. Don't be getting all college on me now, Sarry girl." My father peered out from under his eyebrows. "And lovely as you are, you're even lovelier when you're a smidgen less flip."

I swallowed back the tears that seemed to be my only choice besides flip, and sat down in the chair across from my father. Our waitress came by and I managed to order a coffee. "Wait a minute. You're not a young fifty, Dad. You're sixty-six. And when was the last time you rode a bike? You don't own a bike. And you hate dogs."

"Honey, don't be so literal. Think of it as poetry, as who I am in the bottom of my soul. And, Sarah, I'm glad you've started dating again. Kevin was not on his best day good enough for you, sweetie."

"I answered my own father's personal ad. That's not dating. That's sick."

My father watched as a pretty waitress leaned across the table next to ours. His eyes stayed on her as he patted my hand and said, "You'll do better next time, honey. Just keep up the hard work." I watched as my father raked a clump of thick white hair away from his watery brown eyes. The guy could find a lesson in...Jesus, a date with his daughter.

"Oh, Dad, I forgot all about you. You got the wrong date, too. You must be lonely without Mom, huh?"

The waitress stood up, caught my father's eye and smiled. She walked away, and he turned his gaze back to me. "I think about her every day, all day. And will for the rest of my natural life. But don't worry about me. I have a four o'clock."

"What do you mean, a four o'clock? Four o'clock Mass?"

"No, darlin'. A wee glass of wine at four o'clock with another lovely lady. Who couldn't possibly hold a candle to you, my sweet."

I supposed that having a date with a close blood relative was far less traumatic if it was only one of the day's two dates. I debated whether to file that tidbit away for future reference, or to plunge into deep and immediate denial that the incident had ever happened. I lifted my coffee mug to my lips. My father smiled encouragingly.

Perhaps the lack of control was in my wrist. Maybe I merely forgot to swallow. But as my father reached across the table with a pile of paper napkins to mop the burning coffee from my chin, I thought it even more likely that I had simply never learned to be a grown-up.

—From Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook (c) July 2002, Viking Press, used by permission.

Meet the Author

I wrote my first novel in my minivan at 45. At 50, I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the adaptation of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack. If you have a buried dream, trust me, it is NEVER too late! I guess it's no surprise that reinvention is the overarching theme of my novels and my life. I like to think the heroines in my (eleven and counting!) novels have helped lots of women find their own next chapters, and I also take great joy in sharing what I've learned so far on the Reinvention and Writing pages at ClaireCook.com.

My books have been called everything from romantic comedy to women's fiction to beach reads to chick lit. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me what you call them. I just hope you read and enjoy them!

Brief Biography

Scituate, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
February 14, 1955
Place of Birth:
Alexandria, Virginia
B.A., Film and Creative Writing, Syracuse University

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Must Love Dogs 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Must Love Dogs' was a fantastic book. The plot line was interesting and the characters came out strong and real. I could actually relate to what happened. Her description of the scenes provided an excellent platform for us to be transfered into her story. Excellent work!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought that this was a very good book. I was so happy to see that one of the characters had the same name as me- Siobhan. (For anyone wondering it is pronounced as if it was spelt Shivawn) The book did drag on a little bit, but overall I thought it was enjoyable. I would suggest this book to anyone looking for a quick read. Not great for someone who looks for a lot of depth in what they read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I picked it up I must confess because of the movie and the fact that I like both Diane Lane and Jon Cusack. I was pleasantly surprised to find the book so GOOD that I couldn't put it down. I only hope that the movie can do the book justice - which isn't always the case. LOVE IT!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. I found myself laughing out loud and talking out loud to the characters as if they could hear me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the movie, and when I saw the book on sale, I decided to give it a try. I'm certainly glad I did. It was a fun and entertaining book. I didn't realize it was the 1st of 3 books, but I am looking forward to reading more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read one other book by this author that was fantastic. However this book was so scattered I never knew where the story line was going. The direction kept changing and was extremely unsettling. I doubt I'll purchase anymore.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book more than anything I have ever read! I started reading this in my Geometry class and I couldn't put it down! It was so funny and hilarious! I love how the character of Sarah is so real life and down to Earth and so many females can relate to her situation wheater the be divorced or just got dumped by a guy! And she can relate so well to that fact that it stinks with the search of finding that perfect guy to replace the one that you/or let you go! IT is a wonderful book that I will recomend to ANYONE of all ages!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best part was when Sarah was talking to Mrs. Wallace, that was hilarious! I was disappointed by the ending. It was rather cheesy, I knew it would be I just wanted to read it to say I've read it. I think it was slightly better than the movie though. But I would suggest reading the book first because the movie is very different than the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in a day at work. It is very cute, charming and one that is a great page turner. The Hurlihy family reminds me a lot of my family, but in a more odd way. And watching Sarah get back into the dating scene made me laugh more than a few times. I can't wait to see the movie!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to anyone with patience and tolerance for human folly. A friend who recommended the book to me commented, 'Sometimes you just want to smack Sarah.' However, I believe that Sarah responds to her life events as a woman of her age and position would (over 40, husband had an affair and left her, she kept the house). If you tend to get annoyed with people who seem drenched in self-pity, however, stay away from this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very good. I think it has a great plot line and there are many parts I can relate to in the book, which intrigued my interest in the story. It is unpredictable up to the end, and it really held my attention.I am a person who only reads for enjoyment, and I don't like to have to think real hard in a book,so this book suited me well. However, if you want in-depth thinking in a book, this one would not be for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not much depth. I read it because I live in the next town over from the author. NOT a page turner...I was disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a HUGE disappointment. It was extremely slow and lacked any real depth. The writing style of the author seemed odd - an attempt to be funny, but you just end up thinking the characters are annoying. It was all I could do just to finish it.