When I was aloof and sad, and chose to stay with a friend for a while, because everything was going wrong, my father did the most unexpected thing to bring me back home. He asked my mother to tell me that if I stayed with friends, they wouldn’t look after my dog Boo, and that I would have to make arrangements for her. “How can you do this to Boo? It’s not her fault. You are kidding. I know you all love her,” I told my mother. I couldn’t believe that they could make such an unkind decision. But my mum was unrelenting. “You come back or take Boo with you.”
One hour after our call, I was at home, and I promised I wouldn’t leave again.
I was talking to a friend about my parents’s ‘radical’ behaviour. She guffawed and said, “Your parents are adorable. They had tried reverse psychology to make you sensible again.” I felt cheated. 😉 But I was thankful all the same.
Reverse psychology, that’s what Monica tries, to help her sister Meredith, who is grieving for her fiance Kyle. Meredith is a women’s fiction writer. Although so many readers in her neighborhood enjoy her books, she claims that she is not popular. Quite like many humble authors we know.
Her life doesn’t progress after Kyle’s death. She mourns him for about three years, lives on canned food, binge-watches TV series, wears his clothes, and suffers from writer’s block. But, she has to meet a deadline. Her next book should be written.
That’s when Meredith is coerced by her sister into pet-setting a Yorkshire Terrier called Prozac. What a fitting name! Of course, dogs are amazing anti-depressants, and Prozac — a Spirit Guide Dog, who had ‘explicit jobs and functions to perform’ during his limited time on earth — brings hope and love into Meredith’s life.
It’s not easy for Meredith, for she says she is not a dog person, and she doesn’t want her messy life to become better. But she cannot return the dog. Prozac’s human, an octogenarian, is convalescing after a surgery, and she firmly believes that Meredith will be the next best human for Prozac. Above all, Meredith is being blackmailed by a retired judge into looking after him, and bringing him to Evergreen Gardens, an independent living facility, where ladies worship him every week.
Prozac is incredibly intelligent and more intuitive than other dogs. He assumes the responsibility of breathing life into Meredith. Needless to say that he succeeds. Unlike a lot of literary dogs, Prozac doesn’t sound just awww-inducing and funny. He is sagacious, well-read, and possesses a great understanding of human psyche. His meditations on life, loss, hope, and life are moving and enlightening.
She climbed into bed and, guided by the nightstand lamp, read self-help books — out loud. The latest was titled Get Out of the Rut Called YOU: Strategies for Getting Your Life Unstuck. I mentally rolled my eyes when Meredith read lines like “Get up and get out there again!” or “Find what you love and do it — just go for it!” How was it that grossly underqualified people got paid to write such drivel while intelligent humans like Meredith shelled out money and spent time reading retread, generic crap? She should’ve been reading something of intellectual substance more along the lines of A Grief Observed by CS Lewis. Unfortunately, being a dog had its limitations, and the ability to recommend better books was one of them. But I was well acquainted with Jack’s work — that was what those in C.S.’s inner circle used to call him — when I was assigned as his charge. I once consumed half a volume of Plato. Chewed it to bits. That might’ve put an end to Jack’s work on the Greek translation, but I liked to think that my actions served as the inspiration for the talking animals in his Narnia saga.
Prozac loves William Faulkner too okay? 🙂
Kathleen Gerard’s The Thing Is is warm. While I love every theme the book explores, I particularly enjoyed Gerard’s reflections on random act of kindness and second chances.
The novel is peopled with characters who are memorable and thoughtful. One of the residents of Evergreen Gardens, who is an amazing gambler, throws a grand birthday party for her deceased son’s 50th birthday. Another resident, who watches three TV series on three iPads simultaneously, owns a vintage car that she hasn’t driven after she acquired her driving license in the 60’s. A magician, whom Meredith meets at Evergreen Gardens, has eye-opening conversations with her about illusions and reality. They all gently steer Meredith toward making peace with her past. Meredith gathers courage and strength to move on by leanring about their difficult lives, and their resilience to go on, come what may.
Sometimes, when humans shared things and finally gave voice to their feelings, they cast a light into dark places they’d kept locked inside. In those moments, there were no words.
The plot negotiates quite a few unexpected turns, quite like Wodehousian stories, and ends in the most satisfactory fashion. The Thing Is is cute, hilarious, and has a big heart.
Many thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy. And, my opinions are super honest all right? 🙂