Juliet’s been in hiding. From her family, from her life, but most of all from the fact that Ben’s not around anymore. Her mother Diane can’t do anything to help. But, when she insists Juliet look after her elderly Labrador, it becomes clear that perhaps the dog, Coco, could help her daughter where she couldn’t. Catching on, her neighbours ask Juliet for help with their pets too. But then so does Mark, the gorgeous spaniel-owner she meets out dogwalking. And before she knows it, Juliet realises she’s somehow become the town’s unofficial petsitter, and is now privy to all the lives and secrets of everyone whose animals she’s caring for. But as her first winter alone approaches, she finally begins to wonder if it’s time to face up to her own secrets? To start rebuilding her own life? And maybe – just maybe – to fall in love again?
Last year when I received a copy of Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon I couldn’t wait to read it. I adore novels that feature dogs, and knew it would only be a matter of time before I devoured the novel. It is now a year later and I still haven’t read it. So when I received a copy of Lucy’s latest novel Walking Back To Happiness, I started reading it immediately as I was desperate to not let it sit on my bookshelf unread and boy I am so glad I didn’t just let it sit on my shelf for a year.
Walking Back To Happiness is the kind of read that makes me want to curl up in front of a fire, as it seems to be an appropriate setting for a book such as this. It’s the kind of story you can immerse yourself in, and is one you end up not wanting to put down because it’s just that enjoyable. I must admit, because the book mentions bereavement I expected Juliet to be a bitter miserable widow, and that the whole book would revolve around her misery, but actually, she doesn’t spend that much time lost in self-pity. She has her moments, as I could well expect, but the story is more about hope than anything else. Hope that, despite everything, it is possible to get over losing somebody and I liked how Juliet’s family and new neighbours, the Kelly’s, along with the dogs, helped bring Juliet back to normality again.
I found myself really liking Juliet, her grief seeps off the pages during the first few chapters and it made me sad that such a couple as Juliet and Ben had been torn apart, as they seemed perfect for each other. I could understand why Juliet had shied away from her friends, her family, her job since Ben’s death but I was pleased it didn’t go too far, and I enjoyed it when Juliet started becoming more sociable again. As for Juliet’s sister, Louise, I didn’t really like her very much. Compared to Juliet she seemed very driven, very determined to get what she wanted and to be honest she just came across as very cold. Diane, the girls’ mother, was interfering but in a good way and I found her very amusing. But the family who stole the show were the Kelly’s, Juliet’s next door neighbours along with their lodger Lorcan. They brought life and soul to the novel and I loved how they welcomed Juliet into their home. Finally, I must mention the wonderful dogs. Minton, Juliet’s own dog along with Coco Diane’s dog as well as the babe-magnet Hector and lonely Damson. Surprisingly, they all added to the book in their own way, and they really made me smile.
I love how the book gave across the message that just because you’re a widow doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself up in your house twenty-four/seven crying and that it’s just the smallest of things that can help during the grieving process. Mainly, though, I loved the dog aspect to the book. Having two dogs myself I am well aware of how good dogs are at being there when you need someone to listen and know when to come and lie with you to be stroked and I loved how Minton as well as Coco helped Juliet out of her stupor. Walking Back To Happiness was very well written, dealing not only with Juliet’s grief but also focusing on Juliet’s sister Louise’s own relationship with her husband after their baby son was born. I just found the whole book enchanting, and it was a perfect Saturday afternoon read for me and I was very sad to see it end. It’s fair to say that Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts won’t be sitting on my shelf much longer, that’s for sure.