Susan Wilson, the bestselling author of One Good Dog delivers another powerful novel of loyalty and love.
Single mom Skye Mitchell has sunk her last dime into a dream, owning the venerable, if run-down LakeView Hotel in the Berkshire Hills. It’s here where she believes she’ll give her fourteen-year-old daughter Cody a better life. But being an innkeeper is more challenging than she imagined, and Cody still manages to fall in with the wrong crowd. In addition, Cody is keeping an earth-shattering secret that she’s terrified to reveal. The once loving, open girl has now become completely withdrawn, and Skye is both desperate and helpless to reach her.
When Adam March and his pit bull Chance check into the hotel, it becomes the first of many visits. Here in these peaceful mountains he finds an unexpected relief from his recent bereavement. He and the beleaguered innkeeper form a tentative friendship. Adam knows the struggles of raising a difficult teenager and Skye understands loneliness.
And then there is Mingo, a street kid with a pit bull dog of his own. When Cody discovers an overdosed Mingo, Adam takes the boy’s dog not just for safekeeping, but to foster and then rehome. But the dog isn’t the only one who needs saving. A makeshift family begins to form as four lost people learn to trust and rely on each other, with the help of two good dogs.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
SUSAN WILSON is the author of the bestselling novels The Dog Who Danced and One Good Dog. She lives on Martha's Vineyard.
Read an Excerpt
Two Good Dogs
By Susan Wilson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Susan Wilson
All rights reserved.
The tip of the fingernail file etches a groove into the laminated surface of the school desk in a less than satisfactory way. What she really needs is a knife, something on the order of the kind that her father carried, a folding pigsticker. Something with a more meaningful edge to it. But all she's got right now is this metal nail file she's taken from her mother's cosmetic bag, so she makes do.
Beneath the barrier of a cupped right hand, Cody describes the arc of haunches, a short back, then the angular thrust of a neck, the meaningful scroll of face and muzzle, curls of mane suggesting motion. Tiny forward-pointing ears. By the time she's ready to attach legs to her creation, she's forgotten to protect her work from the prying eyes of her history teacher and she's snapped out of her creative trance by the wrenching of the file out of her hand, the rasp scraping the skin of her forefinger.
"Cody Mitchell, that's defacing public property." Mrs. Lewis holds the offending manicure tool like a tiny sword, pointing it at Cody's artwork.
Cody sits back, shakes her uncombed hair out of her face, shoves her blocky glasses up on her small nose, and folds her arms across her chest in a show of perfect fourteen-year-old defiance. "It's art."
"It's a detention and a trip to the principal."
Just another day at this stupid school. Perfect.
As she slings her backpack over her shoulder, she hears the derisive giggling, the sotto voce gibes of her classmates, not a one of whom is her friend. Her friends are all back in Holyoke, enjoying their first year of high school together, without her. She's stuck in this rural excuse for a high school.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. When her mother announced that she'd put a deposit down on an old hotel, fulfilling a longtime ambition to own her own "boutique" hotel, Cody had been as excited as anyone. She envisioned inviting the girls up for the summer, swimming in an outdoor pool, maybe even horseback riding. It would be fun.
But then everything changed.
Now it felt more like she was in hiding. She knows she should be glad to be far away from what happened that day, far enough away that maybe she's even safe, keeping her word, her exacted promise; keeping the Secret, surely safer at this distance. If he can't find them, he can't touch them. Her mother will never know.
It might have been all right, even though the LakeView Hotel did turn out to be a wreck, a giant money pit without even a pool, except that Cody is the butt of other kids' laughter, the stranger who doesn't share in their communal past. Not one friend.
Cody shoves the classroom door open, but her defiant gesture is foiled by the action of the hydraulic door closer. There's no satisfying slam. She storms down the empty hallway, her unzipped backpack thumping against her spine. The heels of her cowboy boots clatter against the scuffed linoleum of the floor, announcing her solitary presence in that hall of shame.
A figure moves out from the shadow of the girls' room. "Where you going?" The voice is curiously deep for a girl. It's a girl Cody knows because she's about the only other outsider in this school. She's a junior, but repeated failures have placed her in Cody's freshman English class. Her real name is Melanie, but she calls herself "Black Molly." To illustrate her point, Black Molly wears only black, sports a homemade haircut coaxed into something between a Mohawk and a skunk, which is saturated with shoeblack dull dye. She has oversized holes in her ears, plugged with disks. Her nails, her lips, and the tattoo on her left bicep are black. The tattoo riding her thick arm is unidentifiable; it might be a skull and crossbones or a sunflower, and probably the work of some amateur under the influence of crack. Black Molly might be thought of as a Goth, but Cody knows better. There were plenty of Goth girls in her old school, all black lipstick and eyeliner-rimmed eyes, but there's nothing romantically medieval about Black Molly's appearance. If anything, she looks like the love child of a Hell's Angel and a dominatrix. With the disposition of both. Cody's heard the kids making fun of Black Molly behind her back. No one would be stupid enough to say anything to her face. Black Molly is tough. She's the kind of kid that will think nothing of ripping your arm off and beating you with it. The jokes are best made when the girls' room door shuts behind her.
"None of your business." It's a poor riposte, but the best Cody can come up with. Black Molly may be intimidating to everyone else, but Cody holds her ground. She's already mad at the world, so why not get physical? Why not unleash the boiling anger onto this creature of the night?
"I asked you a question." Black Molly eases herself away from the cement-block wall, which is painted a cheery pink to identify the girls' room; the rubber soles of her unlaced boots squeak against the dirty floor. She's a heavy girl, and several inches taller than Cody.
It is that fifteen-minute block in every period where the kids who wander the halls have finally settled in, where the teachers on hall duty have sneaked into the teachers' room to grab a cuppa. Where the principal, head in hands, is studying the budget and the secretaries are gossiping, their backs to the big window that overlooks the main hallway. There is no one to stop this.
"Where'd you come from?" Black Molly suddenly affects a neutral stance.
"They got that big mall there, right?"
"I guess so."
"So, why you here?"
Cody shrugs. "Dunno. My mom ..." She lets the sentence dangle. "It's hard to explain." Cody has enough insight into this poor rural community to know that owning even a run-down hotel might seem like putting on airs.
"They don't like you." Black Molly lifts her chin in the general direction of the classrooms.
"I guess not."
"They don't like me."
Cody, who has not made eye contact, as she wouldn't with any wild animal, finally looks up from under her bangs. "Yeah. I noticed. Sucks."
Black Molly makes a chuffled noise, and it takes Cody a second to recognize it as a laugh. "They all suck. They don't like anybody who ain't like them."
"But you, you grew up here, right?"
"Yeah. But I'm different."
Now it's Cody's turn to chuckle. "You kind of like stating the obvious, don't you?"
"I'm different and I'm proud of it. I don't want to be like them, and if you're smart, neither will you."
"I don't want to be like them. I just want to go —" She cuts herself off. Home. There is no home, not anymore.
"Back where I came from."
"Go. Run away. I've done it. Twice."
"Where'd you run to?"
"Got as far as Greenfield the first time. I got a sister there. She sent me back."
"And the second time?"
The righteous click-clack of teacher shoes and a quick warning to get where they are supposed to be. Black Molly flourishes a pass and walks back into the girls' room. Cody unslings her backpack and zips it up, shoulders it once more, and heads to the office.
* * *
The bills are fanned out on the reception desk in order of due date. I rearrange them in ascending order of amount owed, then alphabetically. It really doesn't help. Framed in the plate-glass picture window of the front office of the LakeView Hotel, I can see the Berkshire Hills, which are the chief attraction in this area. The trees, the promised cornerstone of a four-season income, aren't yet alive with the colors that should attract caravans of tourists this fall; stubbornly languishing more blue than red in the early days of autumn, awaiting some twitch in the calendar to become motivated enough to herald in true fall. The old-timers are puzzled; everyone blames global warming. Summer itself was a disappointing season of too much rain and not enough activity to tempt people northward. As we are a little too far off the beaten path to work as a convenient staging place for cultural forays to Lenox or Stockbridge, and not quite far enough up the Mohawk Trail to get the best views, all I'd had for guests at the LakeView this summer were older hikers and a few tent campers bagging it in favor of a solid — thankfully — roof and a soft bed. Fingers crossed, the rainy summer portends a snowy winter, and skiers will help fulfill my bottom-line expectations. It goes without saying that the LakeView Hotel is just limping along, its glory days in the distant past. My own particular white elephant. Potentially, my second-biggest mistake ever.
My biggest mistake was Randy, my ex-husband. I try to think better of him now that he's met the end we all feared he would, victim of a drive-by shooting, just another small-time drug dealer who pissed someone off.
So, how does a nice middle-class girl from Agawam meet a renegade bad boy like Randy Mitchell? How else? The mall. The Holyoke Mall at Ingleside, where teens have hung out, met, cruised, and even shopped for longer than I can say. I was a high school senior, feeling flush with the heady power of having my driver's license, and my mother's grudging permission to take our car, the only one we had, since she sold my father's Lincoln after his death. My girlfriends and I were seated outside of the Orange Julius, affecting the ennui of world weariness, casting disdainful looks at the tweens giggling, arms linked, clattering by; the worn-looking matrons dragging toddlers away from the temptations of the toy store. We might have been discussing the college acceptances we were anticipating, or maybe just the latest gossip. What cheerleader was rumored to have had an abortion. Which teacher was caught working part-time at the video store.
Randy Mitchell drifted by with his posse. We feigned not noticing them. They rolled by again, blatantly checking us out. These were the boys your mother would warn you about, the ones who meant trouble, the kind of boys who were after "only one thing." We pretended that we weren't flattered, that their silent, predatory attention wasn't kind of thrilling. They were older. At least twenty. Clearly from the rough part of town. And that was a powerful attraction, being the object of an older boy's interest, a boy outside our social strata. When we didn't move away, they grew bolder and sat on a bench close by. There was a swagger to them, a fearlessness.
Randy was the first to speak, and within moments he'd cut me from the herd and he and I were having our own conversation. And then, as if I were Elizabeth Bennet's younger sister Lydia falling under the spell of the contemptible Wickham, I was smitten.
How I fell for that handsome Welsh charm, his certainty that he was invulnerable. I became Bonnie to his Clyde Barrow, without the bank robbery. Kid stuff, not sociopathic, simply rebelling against my middle-class upbringing. But I can't really blame my mother. For me, Randy was the perfect self-inflicted wound. And, despite everything, he was Cody's father.
I open up the computer, log in to my bank account, and play a round of deal or no deal with the bills at hand, balancing interest rates against relationships with the vendors I have to meet face-to-face, like the exterminator or the guy from the oil company. Bank of America will take another pound of flesh, but Berkshire Oil and Gas needs to be kept happy. I have to be able to meet the eye of the delivery guy when I bump into him in the grocery store. I dole out what I can, fiddle a little with payment dates, and log out of the Web site. It's been just six months, something I have to keep reminding myself when I think back to my original business plan, one that had breezily forecast a better cash flow, complete with college-fund contributions on a regular basis. Just for fun, I open the reservations window on the computer and stare at the empty slots, willing each one to miraculously fill. Each empty line represents an empty room. I extend out to the weekend and see two names listed. Two rooms. Two nights. Enough to pay down another of these bills.
My most current revised business plan skims along the edge of solvency; not quite insolvent — yet — there is just enough cash left over each month to keep us fed and clothed. There is no fat, no juicy bubble of impulsivity. Pizza is budgeted. Health care is at the mercy of Mass Health's sliding scale of contribution. Most important, as I continue to tell myself, I'm providing a good place for Cody, a place where she can breathe in fresh country air, and stay out of malls. Away from the influences of life in a poor city, a place to start anew. Oh, wait, maybe that's just me. Cody has never said it out loud, but it's clear from her descent from a bubbly, happy-go-lucky kid to a sullen, angry, silent, petulant, et cetera, et cetera, teenager that this move from Holyoke's mean streets to a classic New England village in the Berkshires has ruined her life.
It's a beautiful day and the rooms are done, the laundry is in the washing machine, and Cody is at school. I pull my hair back into a loose knot and go outside to the porch, pull up a rocking chair, and plant my heels on the railing. The view, even at this lower elevation, is spectacular, and it's all mine. Regrets aren't given much headspace. Buying the LakeView might be considered a little impulsive, but I still have, six months in, a deep-seated belief that if something is meant to be, it will be, so I'm not going to let the crushing worries of my middle-of-the-night wakening persuade me it's not. I will make this work no matter how hard it gets. But you know what? It's okay. It's the dream realized. It's the living embodiment of be careful of what you wish for.
* * *
"Are you staying after for a club or something?" Skye is eternally hopeful that her daughter will finally adjust to life in this backwater.
"No. I'm in detention." Cody doesn't add, again.
"Should I ask why?"
Cody thinks, Yes, duh, but says nothing more.
"Do you need a ride home?"
"I'll take the late bus."
"Okay. We'll talk when you get home."
Cody hangs up the office phone without saying good-bye. She looks at the secretary, who is minding her own business, as if Cody is no one important enough to eavesdrop on. A nonentity. Just another skinny jeans and T-shirt–wearing adolescent, braces on her teeth, backpack humped against her spine. There is a countertop that separates kids from office staff, a barricade of last defense against the uprising. On it, a ceramic jar filled with pens and pencils. With an artful swing, Cody manages to knock it off the counter with her backpack as she leaves the office. The pottery smashes against the ugly tile floor of the office with a satisfying sound of destruction; just as satisfying is the bellow from the secretary: "Cody Mitchell, get back in here!" At least someone knows her name. The office door eases shut with a gentle thunk. Cody strides toward the exit, in the opposite direction from the detention room, making her heels click as loudly as she can. Black Molly stands beside the water fountain. Cody doesn't look directly at her, but she gets the sense that Black Molly is smiling.
There was a time when she would have died to have been caught being destructive, mortified not to obey every rule, every directive. But that was the old Cody Mitchell. This one, the new and improved version, delights in anarchy. It feels so good. And in honor of that new power, Cody sticks her thumb out and hitches a ride. She doesn't even consider herself lucky when her Good Samaritan is a middle-aged woman on her way to North Adams. The price of the ride is a short lecture on the dangers of hitchhiking. The woman buys her story of her mother's being home with a sick child and her needing to get to her art lesson. Which is sort of true. The art, not the mother with a sick child, unless you consider the Bates Motel as sick. And — technically — she's not taking lessons, but she is learning a great deal.
North Adams, home of Mass MoCA, has turned modern art into the last hope of a town whose industry has fled. Cody asks to be dropped off at a former factory, now an art studio complex. There are a couple of guys in there who don't seem to mind her hanging around, although she knows they think of her as more of a pet than an art groupie, but that's okay. Cody does coffee runs and cleans brushes, keeps quiet and doesn't ask stupid questions when she does speak. Kieran and Mosley, a pair of hipsters in ironic black glasses and paints-pattered skinnies; the one building installations that defy gravity and the other, Mosley, working in what he calls mixed media, which looks to Cody like anything he feels like doing. Cody just likes the smell of paint, the pungent scent of an acetylene torch.
"What up, Cody?" Kieran is standing on a three-step stool, wire cutters in one hand. "Hand me that coil of wire, would you?"
Excerpted from Two Good Dogs by Susan Wilson. Copyright © 2017 Susan Wilson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It is good
Two Good Dogs is told from different point-of-views. It is told in the third person for Cody and Adam. In the first person for Skye and Chance. As the story plays out, it changes from one person to the next. I found this confusing. One minute we are hearing from Cody and then it changes. You have to read a little bit and then you finally figure out which person it has changed to. I wish the author had just told the story from a third person perspective (instead of each character). I found Chance’s sections to be a little too sophisticated for a dog (if they had been more humorous, it would have helped lighten this story). The dog cannot understand human speak, but he has very mature thoughts. I know my dog, Doozy has one main thought—food. His main concern is how to con more treats out of me (or find a way to steal them). The pace of the book is leisurely (a nice way to say slow) and the segments choppy. I give Two Good Dogs 2.5 out of 5 stars. I did not like Cody. She dominates the story (of course) with her teenage rebellious acts, because she will not share her secret. I felt the author shoved in as many awful teenage acts as she could into the store. It made the book very unpalatable. Two Good Dogs contains foul language, drugs, thieving and inappropriate situations (an art teacher with an underage, underdressed model). The ending was abrupt and the epilogue unsatisfactory. There was one odd sentence. Cody does not put on perfume that she does not own (stole or borrowed from a guest) because her mother “has a nose like a hound”. But Cody can smoke pot and her mother does not notice? This is an oxymoron. Two Good Dogs had very little mystery or suspense in it. I wish the author had played up this angle more and less on the teenage drama.
Two Good Dogs by Susan Wilson Two good dogs – and they were definitely sweeties – is an interesting tale. Fourteen year old Cody Mitchell is a mess. She has seen a murder and been threatened. She has cut herself off and become a loner who is badly treated at school. She is an artist. She is filled with anger, fear and teenage angst. She is on the outs with her mom for a number of reasons including the fact that her mom has moved her away from all that she knew. She is not very likable but I do understand her. Skye Mitchell is Cody’s mom. Her dream is to own a bed and breakfast so she bought one BUT owning it is a lot of work, requires budgeting and then add in a daughter with problems and her life is not the greatest. Adam March is a grieving widow and rescuer of dogs and sometimes people. He is on the road a lot and happens to stop at Skye’s B&B. Over a period of time he begins to visit more and finds solace in the Berkshires. Mingo Ayala is a troubled young man who has had a hard life. I enjoyed his story and wouldn’t mind reading more about how he eventually turns out. The story includes a lot of heavy topics: bullying, loss, rescue, abuse, fear, second chances, lies, bad choices, making amends, etc. This book is hard for me to rate with stars. Why? Because I liked the story, for the most part, but I did not like the style it was written in. I had trouble knowing whose point of view I was reading till I had read into the paragraph a bit and the point of view changed often. I wanted to know more about Adam and his background – what he did that was so horrible and cost him so much. I wanted to know more about Skye before she bought the B&B and also wondered how she could be so clueless. I felt sorry for Cody BUT also felt the choices she made were hard to understand at times. In some ways I wished for an epilogue to let me know how everyone is doing a few years down the road. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the ARC. This is my honest review. Story: 5 Stars Writing Style: 3 or less stars Overall: 4 Stars