Sally Baynard is one of the best lawyers around. In the years since her divorce from Family Court Judge Joe Baynard, she dedicated herself to representing the worst and craziest Charleston, S.C. had to offer. But none of the murderers, burglars, or angry divorcing clients compared to Sherman, the dog her ex-husband appointed her to represent. Although the miniature Schnauzer found his way into her heart (and brought his handsome vet Tony along too), his case was a thorny one. With that business out of the way, Sally is happy to move back to non-canine clients... until a probate judge asks her about a cat.
Agreeing to represent Beatrice, a black cat who's the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar trust and a plantation, Sally must put her wit, charm, and brains to the test, choosing among three colorful potential caregivers while dodging the former owner's angry son. Meanwhile, Sally must juggle the demands of the court with those of her aging mother and make a decision about Tony, who wants to get more serious. Lee Robinson's Lawyer for the Cat is Southern women's fiction at its most delightful, featuring strong, smart characters, a charming setting, and plenty of adorable critters.
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Lawyer for the Cat
By Lee Robinson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Lee Robinson
All rights reserved.
Let's Start with the Dog
In my twenty-five years as a lawyer I've tried hundreds of cases, represented the full spectrum of humanity: petty thieves from the projects, highborn heroin addicts, the sane and the insane, the abusers and the abused. Every case is a story, and the more preparation I do for a trial, the more complicated that story seems. If I'm not careful I get lost in the labyrinth of facts and law. So the night before a trial I draw a line down the middle of a legal pad. At the top of one column I write "Good," and at the top of the other, "Bad." This is what it's going to boil down to. In last week's divorce case, for example, the list started like this:
Articulate client, will make good witness
Excellent homemaker, mother
Put husband through dental school
Client's husband admits he left because "she got fat"
Client responsible for large credit card debt
Addicted to Home Shopping Network
Had affair early in marriage with husband's best friend
Drinks too much
And so on. This is what's going to matter. This — after a couple of days of testimony, tears, truths and half-truths and downright lies, lawyers arguing over the rules of evidence, objections overruled and sustained, the judge yawning, the perspiration, the exhaustion — is the story that will matter.
If I were to perform such an analysis on myself, on the Case of My Life, it would look something like this:
Built successful law practice from scratch
Healthy, not bad-looking
Attentive to aging mother
Blunt, bordering on obnoxious
Impervious to fashion
Resentful of aging mother
A failure at romance
That's what it boils down to: The Good and the Bad of Sarah Bright Baynard, Attorney at Law, AKA Sally, just turned fifty.
* * *
"I hate the sound of it," I say.
"What are you talking about?" asks my best friend, Ellen. We're at Giminiano's, the new restaurant on King Street that's tucked behind a shoe store, down a narrow brick walkway. It's advertised as "lively and intimate," which means — as we now understand — tiny, noisy, and crowded.
"Fifty. It sounds so heavy, like some giant sack of years I'll be lugging around for the rest of my life."
"That doesn't sound like you," she says.
"Maybe now that I'm fifty I'm not the same me anymore."
"Wow," Ellen says. "You definitely need a glass of wine, or two or three. Red or white?"
"Shouldn't we wait for the others?" Every year Ellen assembles the same group of girlfriends to celebrate my birthday. We were all roommates in law school, but she's the only one I've stayed close to. Ellen thinks she's doing me a favor by getting us together, as if this annual reunion will magically transport me back to my twenties, but it depresses me. This year I postponed it a couple of times with lame excuses, until I couldn't put it off any longer.
"Answer the question. Red or white?" Her voice has that prosecutorial determination she uses in the courtroom.
"Red, I guess."
She scans the wine list, motions for the waiter. "We'd like a bottle of Chianti. The Banfi, please." Ellen is one of those people who knows her wines. She's also a great tennis player and gardener, not to mention lawyer, wife, and mother. I'd hate her except for the fact that she's one of the very few people who knows me well and loves me anyway.
By the time the wine comes Valerie and Wendy have arrived. Valerie looks great, her thick red hair swept up and pinned loosely in one of those arrangements that looks artsy and casual but undoubtedly takes a lot of time. "Helen sends her regrets," she says. "Last-minute babysitting for the grandchildren."
"God," says Wendy, "Can you believe we're old enough to have grandchildren?" There's a moment of discomfort, a pang of silence in which I wonder if they're all thinking the same thing: Yes, we're all old enough, but one of us won't ever have grandchildren.
Ellen, bless her heart, recovers quickly, lifts her glass toward me: "To Sally, who gets better every year!" I lift mine, take a swallow big enough, I hope, to bring me back to myself, whoever that is.
"Yeah," says Wendy, "I heard things are getting better for you in the love department!" She leans across the table and lowers her voice. It's only then that I notice the little pucker-lines around her mouth; otherwise she could pass for thirty-five. "He's a vet, right?"
"Just a good friend at this point," I say.
"She's being coy, if it's possible for Sally to be coy!" Ellen says. She pours the rest of the bottle into my glass, orders another. "Maybe, since he's a vet," she says, "he could help you with the cat case."
"Katz?" Valerie says, her eyes widening. "Don't tell me the Katzes are divorcing!"
"'Cat,' as in feline," I say. "But it's not official yet."
"She did such a good job on the dog case, the probate judge wants her to represent a cat," explains Ellen, as if I'm not there. And then, because the chatter around us makes it hard to hear, she continues in her loud, lawyer-in-the-courtroom voice: "You know about her thing with the dog, right?" Of course it is at this very moment that the waiter reappears, and although he can't miss hearing "her thing with the dog" he pretends, as he takes our orders, that he hasn't. We smother our laughter until he leaves, then explode. Everyone in the room turns around to look.
"Okay," says Valerie, after we've recovered our respectability, "I want the whole story."
"Sorry," I say. "Client confidentiality."
"Bullshit," says Ellen. "Your client was a dog. A dog doesn't have any secrets."
"So, tell all," insists Valerie.
When I'm finished she says, "So, let me get this straight: Joe Baynard, judge of the Charleston Family Court, who happens to be your ex-husband, appoints you to represent a schnauzer in a divorce case, not because the dog really needs a lawyer but because he — Joe — is still in love with you?"
"Well, to be fair to him," I said, "it was the case from hell, and poor Sherman —"
"The dog. Sherman was right in the middle of it. Like a kid in the middle of a custody case."
"So," says Wendy, "Joe couldn't find someone else? He has to choose his ex-wife to represent the dog?"
"He's appointed me in lots of custody cases — to represent the kids," I say. "I think he was hoping I'd help him settle it."
"Maybe," says Ellen, "but he's also obsessed with you."
"Joe's remarried, isn't he?" asks Valerie.
"I heard they were separated," says Wendy.
"They separated for a while, but they're back together now," I say.
"I always liked Joe," says Wendy. "I never did really understand why you ... Never mind, this is your birthday dinner!"
"So, what happened ... with" — Valerie interrupts herself while the waiter serves our appetizers — "with the case, I mean?"
"The couple reconciled and Sherman's back home with them."
"She's leaving out the best part," says Ellen. "The dog's vet wants to marry her."
Valerie's eyebrows rise. "You're getting married?"
"Not anytime soon," I say.
"I don't know what you're waiting for," says Ellen. "He's perfect for you."
And there's a voice in my head — a voice that sounds strangely like my own. This voice, this me, is agreeing with Ellen. This me is still Sally Baynard, lawyer extraordinaire, but she's also a woman with a love life, one who doesn't live with her demented mother. She trusts her own instincts, isn't afraid of making another mistake.
This me might have another glass of wine, might even move in with the vet.
* * *
By the time I get back to the condo, after dinner and dessert and coffee, I'm my old self again, feeling the full load of being Sarah Bright Baynard for half a century. The short drive across town was oddly comforting — Charleston with its antebellum buildings glowing under streetlamps, cobblestone streets with their bumpy history, the city where I'm still, by contrast, young — but when I enter the renovated lobby of my building (faux marble floor, trendy red leather furniture) I'm struck by its gleaming newness. The members of the home owners' board are all in their seventies and eighties. Maybe this expensive facelift is a defense against their own deterioration. This year there are fresh Christmas decorations — real pine garlands with white bows over the doors, a gigantic spruce tree in one corner, glittering with tiny white lights — to replace the fake wreaths and faded red ribbons of years past.
I share the elevator with a woman who lives on my floor, whose name I don't remember, and her poodle, whose name I do remember. "Hello, Curly," I say, and the dog wags her tail.
"I hope you'll bring your mother to the holiday party," says the woman. "She could meet some of our neighbors! There's a very nice older man who's just moved into the penthouse."
"I'm sure it will be a lovely event." I remember last year's party. I showed up in slacks and a sweater, my mother in a black wool dress and pearls. Most of the other women were in sequins and chiffons. Mom took one look and insisted on going back up to our apartment to change clothes. By the time we got back, the crab dip and the ham biscuits had been devoured.
"Where's your little friend — that adorable schnauzer?" asks the woman.
"Sherman's gone back to his family. I was just taking care of him for a few days."
"Oh, that's a shame. It must have been hard to let him go!"
"Yes." Now I remember: It's Mrs. Furley, rhymes with Curly. Josephine Furley. She has a head of black ringlets, dyed to match her dog's.
"Well, then, you must get one of your own!" she says as we walk down the hall. "Your mother would like that, wouldn't she? And then when she's gone — I know you don't want to think about that, dear ... but when she's gone, you won't be all alone."
Of course I won't tell Mrs. Furley the truth: that it's actually not at all hard for me to think about life without my mother. Maybe I'm a terrible person, but I often imagine this apartment to myself, these rooms that feel so cramped with her furniture, the equipment left over from the last hospitalization (the walker, the bedside potty), not to mention the bottles of pills and the giant-sized bottles of Metamucil that crowd the kitchen counter. It's not scary at all to imagine coming home to silence, to my own space, without Mom and her sitters: Delores on weekdays and Shenille on nights and weekends if I need her. I would miss Delores, with her great laugh and good sense, but sometimes I sit out on my little balcony overlooking the harbor and imagine how it will be when I'm free of them all.
"You don't have to do this," my friend Ellen said, the last time I complained. "Your mother wouldn't want this for you."
"I can't put her in a nursing home. I thought I could, but —"
"You deserve a life."
"I have a life."
"You know what I mean," she said. "Like maybe a life with Tony." Tony is the vet. "I'm beginning to think you're using your mother as an excuse not to make a commitment."
"Mom has nothing to do with it. We're just taking our time."
"Bullshit. He's crazy about you. And you know what I think about you and your damn 'time'? I think you're running out of it."
Maybe Ellen's right, and undoubtedly Shenille, who's sitting in the living room watching a sappy romantic movie, would agree. She looks up at me, scans my outfit (white silk blouse, black pants, silver earrings), opines, "You're still kind of pretty for your age. Seems like there'd be some nice man out there for you." Shenille is overly generous with such observations, but she's also very patient with my mother (who once referred to her as "the sweet little white one," to distinguish her from Delores) so I ignore the comment.
She gives me a brief report on Mom's evening — she ate all her dinner except the broccoli, spilled some juice on her bathrobe (in the dryer now), went to sleep after America's Got Talent — and hands me a piece of paper on which she's written a name and a number. "He called right after you left. Said something about a cat case. I told him I didn't expect you back till late, but he kept on talking, about how his mama was crazy. Sounded kinda crazy himself, but I guess you're used to crazy people, with all those divorces you do." She says 'divorces' as if it's a nasty word. She's twenty, recently married, and has told me (another unsolicited observation) that she would never, ever get a divorce, because "no judge can divide what God has bound together." She gathers her purse, her jacket. "Oh, and he said he's a friend of your husband. That's what made me think maybe he had the wrong —"
"He probably meant my ex."
"He was talking so fast I got confused." She gathers her purse, her sweater. "See you tomorrow night, Ms. Baynard."
"I wish you'd call me Sally."
"But your checks, they say Sarah."
"Sally's my nickname."
"Sarah's prettier. Like, more fancy or something."
* * *
I check on my mother, who's sleeping soundly, then settle into bed myself, read until the book falls on my chest, turn off the light, then can't go back to sleep. I miss the vet. I miss the smell of him.
We could have this all the time, he said last weekend. We were lying in the hammock on his screened porch overlooking the creek, under a blanket because it was chilly. The three dogs — Susie and Sheba, his two golden retrievers, and Carmen, the beagle abandoned by her owner — stayed close, Carmen's tail thwacking the floor contentedly, in rhythm with the hammock.
I have my practice, I said. And my mother. This place is too small for the three of us. And what about when your son visits?
Then we'll get a bigger place.
And I'll commute every day?
Or I will. I told you I'd be willing to do that.
That doesn't make any sense. Your clinic's right down the road. It's a perfect setup for you.
He rolled halfway out of the hammock, stuck his foot out to make it stop swinging. If you don't want it to work, Sally, you can find a hundred reasons why it won't.
I'm just trying to point out —
Spare me the lawyerly logic!
I followed him into the kitchen. The dogs followed, too. I just want us to take our time, I said. I don't want to screw it up.
That's what you say about Carmen. He poured himself some juice, didn't offer me any. Here's this wonderful animal — he reached down, scratched the beagle under the chin — who needs somebody to love her. You say you want her, but somehow you can never bring yourself to take her home. Do I see a pattern here?
Okay, I said. I'll do it.
Which, take the dog, or marry me?
Let's start with the dog, I said.
He laughed. Thank God he laughed. One thing at a time, I guess, he said. You want to take her tonight?
Not tonight. Soon. I promise.
He pulled me close. Just don't break this poor animal's heart, okay?CHAPTER 2
Trouble All Over It
Most of the Probate Court is housed on the fourth floor of the new judicial center, but Judge Clarkson's office is in the old courthouse on the corner of Meeting and Broad — "The Historic Courthouse," they call it — and this seems appropriate for a judge about to retire, who's spent most of his life dealing with the business of the deceased: wills and trusts, testators and executors, the detritus of the dead.
Probate Court is foreign territory for me. I know my way around the Circuit Court and Family Court. In my younger days as a public defender I handled hundreds of criminal cases in the Circuit Court, defending the indefensible. And these days I spend almost all my time in the Family Court. I know its courtrooms and corridors as well as I know my own condo. The clerks and deputies call me Sally. The judges all know me, too. One of them, the Honorable Joseph H. Baynard, is my ex-husband. Once, when a client protested, "You can't possibly understand what it's like to go through this!" I could say, in all honesty, Yes, I do. And I knew better than to send her off, after I'd handed her a certified copy of the divorce decree, with a silly "Congratulations!" because I've learned the hard way that this piece of paper might end the marriage, but it doesn't end the sadness.
This morning in the Probate Court I feel like a neophyte lawyer all over again. I don't even know which way to turn when I get off the elevator. It's reassuring, then, when the woman behind the sliding glass window says, "Ms. Baynard, Judge Clarkson's expecting you. He's in his chambers. First door on the left."
The judge rises slowly from behind his desk, which is almost completely covered by stacks of files. "Old cases," he says, "going to storage. Time to retire them, like me." We shake hands. "Baynard," he says, as if he's taste-testing the name. He has a bulbous nose, outsized ears, a shiny bald head. "You married John Baynard's son. From upstate, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir. Columbia." No need to go into the divorce if he doesn't remember.
"This cat case ... Have a seat. ... Thought I'd seen it all until this one. Heard you like animals."
"I like them, sir, but I'm not sure that qualifies me —"
"Oh, don't sell yourself short."
Excerpted from Lawyer for the Cat by Lee Robinson. Copyright © 2016 Lee Robinson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Let's Start with the Dog,
2. Trouble All Over It,
3. He Doesn't Get a Veto,
4. Zooming Out,
5. The Mess We Make of It,
6. The Beatrice Box,
8. It's in My Blood,
11. A Headache,
12. Just a Little Trip,
13. The Powers of Darkness,
14. Can't Get No Satisfaction,
15. The Whole Truth,
16. Maybe He's the One,
17. Then There's Hope,
18. What Were You Thinking?,
19. The Human Parade,
21. Going to the Dogs,
22. Where's Beatrice?,
23. Making the Best of It,
24. Trust Enforcer,
25. A Spot of Blood,
26. A Preponderance of the Evidence,
27. Who Am I Saving It For?,
28. Old Books and Candle Wax,
29. Simon and Lila,
30. Heart Trouble,
31. For Old Times' Sake,
32. Watching the Tide Go Out,
Also by Lee Robinson,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the second Sally Baynard book, the first being Lawyer for the Dog. I really enjoyed this book. It was a fun read with quirky characters and lots of sentiment. The story centers around Sally Baynard, an attorney who is appointed enforcer of a trust. Her responsibility is to decide who would be the best caretaker for Beatrice, the cat. The trust stipulates that whoever is chosen to look after Beatrice must live int the old plantation house. They also get $50,000 a year. When the cat dies, Lila's son will inherit the plantation. Needless to say, he is not happy. Sally has a lot going on in her life. She divorced her husband years ago, and he is not a family court judge. He wants to be appointed to circuit court and is pressuring Sally to support him. Sally's mother Margaret is living with her in her apartment. She has Alzhiemers but Sally will not put her in a home. This wreaks havoc with her budding romance with the vet, Tony. She met Tony when she was acting on behalf of Sherman, the dog in her previous animal rights case. Not only is all that going on in her private life, but she is also a busy family attorney and is juggling her caseload while trying to determine who will be the caretaker of Beatrice. Thiswas a quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I did not know what to expect when I started this book, but it was surprisingly fun. We really got to know Sally. Through her interactions with her secretary/assistant, her friends, her mother, her mother's caregivers and even the people she met to interview for the trust case showed a smart, caring, and loyal woman with a little inferiority thrown in. Even though Beatrice was the object of the trust case, she played a small role in the book. I liked the ending of this story. It was unexpected but I think it was just right. I actually learned a little about trusts and family court while reading this book. I recommend this book to cat lovers, those interested in animals rights. I am going to have to to and get Lawyer for a Dog to read now to see what I missed in Sally's life. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
Enjoyed this sequel to Lawyer for the Dog. Ms. Robinson has again provided wonderful characters, twists and turns and left the reader hoping there will be more Sally Baynard novels to come.
Sarah (Sally) Bright Baynard, Attorney at Law, has just turned 50 and is single. An admitted workaholic, she is sharing a glass of wine with her friend, Ellen, and lamenting her age while waiting for her other friends to arrive to celebrate her birthday. Ellen is also an attorney. Sally’s ex-husband is a judge. Sally is now dating a veterinarian who wants to marry. She lives in Charleston with her mother who has Alzheimer’s. Sally usually handles divorce cases so family law and some criminal law are areas with which she is familiar. Probate Court is not her speciality but she is meeting with a judge over a cat case. When she died, Lila MacKay left a trust for the care of her cat, Beatrice, but failed to appoint an enforcer for the trust. Thus, the judge is appointing Sally to interview the people Lila suggested and choose one to be the enforcer. Lila left a vast amount of money and real estate in her trust assets. The trust states that the person appointed as enforcer shall live with Beatrice in her large home until such time as Beatrice passes away. While Sally really doesn’t want to take the case, she doesn’t want to say no to the judge appointing her and, therefore, ends up with the case and the cat. Sally’s assistant, Gina, helps her a lot with her cases and digs into the box of information on Beatrice. Soon, Sally begins interviewing the list of approved people to care for Beatrice as specified by Lila. Each person has some type of baggage that makes them not the most suitable enforcer. In addition, Sally has to fight off the aggressive bully son of Lila. He and his mother never got along and he resents the cat getting her money. The story winds through the different friends and family members of Sally in addition to many of her clients. She is a very busy woman juggling her practice and her private life. Anyone who has ever worked with an attorney as I have, can appreciate the never-ending job and some really crazy clients. I enjoyed this book but only gave it 4 stars because I found it difficult to find any real emotion from Sally. I found her to be an “attorney” 24/7. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Plenty of believable characters. Even though there are several stories involved, they ebb and flow with an easy grace. I couldn't put the book down. It has humor, love, and understanding.
South Carolina lawyer Sally Baynard is no stranger to interesting cases as she has tackled intense divorces, messy child custody cases, and burglaries. However, nothing prepared her for representing Sherman, a lovable schnauzer that was caught in the middle of a custody case between his two owners who were divorcing. Fortunately, Sherman's owners had a reconciliation and they are all living happily together which was best for everyone. With this unique case behind her Sally is ready to get back to a normal caseload and normal human clients. Her relief is short lived as a judge who is close to retirement gives her a case where she will represent a cat. The cat's name is Beatrice and after the death of her wealthy owner this cat is named the beneficiary of a large plantation and multi-million dollar trust. Sally's job is to decide between three people who will be the best caregiver of Beatrice and with this choice that person will be allowed to live on the plantation and be given a handsome salary to pay for the care of the cat. So, in order to make a sound decision on which person will be best, Sally will have to visit and interview each of the three contenders and try to figure out the most important questions to ask. As Sally begins her investigation she reads that in the will the plantation is supposed to go to the son of the deceased after the death of the cat. This in turn creates an extremely upset son who feels he is being cheated out of his rightful inheritance. As Sally gets a chance to meet each of the three people listed, the choice becomes harder and harder to make as each person has some positive but also some negative aspects that makes a solid decision difficult. In addition, Sally receives some threatening notes that she believes are coming from the angry son. It will take all of her skills as a lawyer to get through this unique situation and find the right home for Beatrice. After reading the first book by Lee Robinson, Lawyer for the Dog, I was ecstatic to see that a sequel had been written and I could not wait to read it. Author Lee Robinson creates such a fun story full of southern charm that I absolutely love. The character of Sally Baynard is so relatable that I felt as if I was sitting down with a beloved friend as I was reading this book. In addition, adding the element of the animals to this relatable story is a beautiful mix. Once I started this book it was hard to put it away as the writing transfixed me in a way that I became lost in the story and time didn't matter. Quill says: A book that is absolutely perfect to curl up on the couch with that allows for a wonderful reading experience.
Title: Lawyer for the Cat - Sally Baynard Novel 2 Author: Lee Robinson Published: 5-18-2016 Publisher: Bonnier Publishing / twenty7 Pages: 241 Genre: Women's Fiction Sub-Genre: Family Life; Cats; ISBN: 9781785760679 ASIN: B0176YG1I2 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars . Charleston S. C. divorce attorney Sally Baynard is looking forward to some normal cases with human clients following her successful conclusion of Sherman the Schnauzer, but the probate Judge Clarkson has other ideas when he asks her to take on the case of the heir to Lila Mackay's multi-million dollar trust and plantation. There are three viable families wanting to care for Beatrice, the friendly black cat heir. Then there is the surly son who resents the cat and Sally. Add in a contentious ailing mother and Tony who wants to move his and Sally's relationship forward and clients going through emotional battles in court and Sally is feeling the pressure. Lee Robinson has built some terrific characters. Sally and Tony are both strong independent people, but Sally's insecurities in her romantic and personal judgment make her feel more human than her tough exterior sometimes hide. Tony's frustration keeps him from becoming a wimp where Sally is concerned, he is not afraid to push her boundaries a little, but knows when to back off. Her mother, I haven't made my mind up on yet, but I agree with Sally about a nursing home. I could not put either of my parents in one no matter how good the facilities were. These characters seem so real and are so easy to identify with that it is hard to remember they are only characters. As for Beatrice she can come stay with us and have a happy feline family and human care givers who have already been trained that cats rule the house and the world. I hope you love this series as much as I have come to. My rating is 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Attorney Sally Baynard has had some crazy court cases since divorcing her husband, a family court judge. Recently, she had great success representing Sherman, a dog in a divorce case. Now, she has been asked to represent Lila Mackay's cat Beatrice, who is beneficiary to Lila’s multi-million dollar trust and plantation. This case proves to be quite involved as Sally weeds through the individuals listed on the will trying to find a suitable guardian for Beatrice. While Sally is working on this case, she juggles her other cases and her personal life that seems to be getting a little out of hand. And now she has to care for a cat on top of everything else. How will Sally keep a level head to do the job that needs to be done? This is a well written book that I had a hard time putting down. I enjoyed everything about it. The characters were well defined and the story moved along nicely to a purr-fect ending. On a side note, I don't know the first thing and lawyers or court cases, but the story was told in a way that was easy to understand and follow.