Herman, whose previous books include a novel, Missing, and a memoir about being a mother, The Middle of Everything, writes with great good humor about a puppy invasion on a lonely life.
The New York Times
What if a person does good by accident? asks narrator Jill. Herman's (A New and Glorious Life) poet and college professor heroine leads a solitary life in a nondescript Midwestern city. Never mind a lover, she is so wary and distrustful of others that she doesn't pursue even casual friendships with her colleagues. When, on a whim, Jill adopts a beagle puppy whom she names Phil, her personal transformation begins. Jill and Phil take midnight walks when the streets are deserted. Slowly, as Jill grows accustomed to Phil, she confers significance onto the smallest details: the tilt of his head, the look in his eyes, the pitch of his barks, the tug on his leash. Jill realizes a sense of well-being, and ultimately the book is about the lessons Phil teaches Jill about unconditional love, acceptance, loyalty, trust, and companionship. This is a charming, feel-good short novel that borders on being a parable. At a very reasonable price, it is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A brief, winsome novella about an English professor at a midwestern college who gets a dog instead of a life. At almost forty-five, poet and academic Jill Rosen, after six years at her college tenured on the basis of "Great Promise," is not turning out very promising in a hurry. Originally from Queens, Jill has found a dog on a foster-care site on the Internet and ends up with a mutt that surprisingly is both intelligent and devoted to her-a dog, like her, "with dignity." Revealingly, she names it Phil, after the first names of authors whose books she keeps on her bedside table (Larkin, Roth, Lopate, Levine), though the name actually represents most memorably her first unpleasant boyfriend, Philip the first, a poet and Brooklyn College student she dated miserably for a year in New York. Yet neither Philip nor any of the other men she's dated has been good, Rosen offers with a tinge of self-pity ("Single-minded in their dedication to all-himness"), and though she drinks a bit too much wine at night before walking Phil and feels as warmly toward her students as if they were her own children, she comforts herself with the thought that she wouldn't be tempted to change lives with a single one of her friends or colleagues. In the end, this latest from academic Herman (Missing, 1990) adheres to a telling instead of showing: it's frustratingly interior, hermetically so, and feels interminable even though quite slim. The narrator's ruminations on colleagues and even her brother-a professor of linguistics who has a family and lived "in a more interesting city and earned more money than Jill did"-come off as mean-spirited and gossipy. The reader wishes in this rare instance that the lonely spinsterprofessor would meet someone-any human would do-but, no, the dog has taken over her life, and she's entirely happy about it. A dry, internal work about the underappreciated and underloved.
"Phil the dog is one of the most admirable and engaging male characters you are likely to encounter between the pages of a book this year. His relations with the woman who has the good fortune to share his life are handled with exemplary insight, delicacy, and humor." - J.M. Coetzee
"Herman writes with great good humor about a puppy invasion on a lonely life." - New York Times Book Review
"Herman’s spare novella is a haiku of loneliness and human redemption." Entertainment Weekly
"Told with humor, insight, and intelligence, this novel is as thoughtprovoking as it is charming." - Booklist
"Dog is a novel for any of us, of whatever age, who have taken a look at our lives and wondered how we became who we are." - Boston Globe
"A tender story about aging and loneliness, about how you need to trust your own crazy feelings, and about how dogs can teach you to feel again." - Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures
"Herman writes graciously about how we take other souls into our lives...She’s nimble, concise, and never mawkish." - The Bark Magazine