Anytime I recommend a book about a dog to one friend, I have to assure her the dog lives, or she won’t read the book. I’m going to recommend Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus to her this week. Not only does Atticus live, but Ryan writes a blog called The Adventures of Tom & Atticus, so she can continue to read about the intrepid little dog.
Tom Ryan was the editor, publisher, and lone employee of the Undertoad, a small newspaper in Newburyport, Massachusetts, when he agreed to adopt an older miniature schnauzer, a miserable looking dog he named Maxwell Garrison Gillis. Max became Ryan’s companion at home, and on his travels around Newburyport, as he covered stories and delivered the newspaper. But, Max was old, and he lost his fight for life only a year and a half after he took over Ryan’s life.
Ryan needed that dog so much. As the youngest of nine children, he felt as if he lost his family when his mother died tragically when he was only seven. His father didn’t know how to cope, and his anger eventually forced all his children away. Ryan grew up without a loving home. His job as editor of the paper in the contentious community of Newburyport won him some friends, but just as many enemies. He was a lonely, heartbroken, overweight middle-aged man when he reached out for another miniature schnauzer.
The search for a puppy brought Paige Foster into his life, the breeder who sent him a small, six pound puppy, a dog who was “different.” From the moment Paige told him to carry that dog with him everywhere for a month, Ryan felt a bond with the puppy he named Atticus Maxwell Finch. And, he was a dog that was “different,” one who accompanied Tom everywhere on his rounds. And, eventually, Atticus and Tom Ryan built an unbreakable bound as they climbed the White Mountains of New Hampshire. For these unusual companions set out to climb all forty-eight of New Hampshire's four-thousand-foot peaks, not just in summer, but also in winter.
Following Atticus is an emotional story of a man, his beloved friend, Atticus, their mountains, and the lessons Tom Ryan learned from Atticus and the mountains. It’s the story of a man and his dog, but it’s also the story of Tom Ryan’s life. It’s the story of a man learning to deal with his past, coming to terms with his father, and learning to understand him. It’s the story of a man, who for eleven years, worked to change a town torn apart by politics, factions, and the past.
If you’re not into the descriptions of mountains and nature as much as Tom Ryan is, that’s the part of the book that becomes a little tedious. However, his descriptions are full of poetry and philosophy, perfect for a man who hikes mountains with one companion.
The prologue of the book is beautiful, an introduction to a pair of unlikely adventurers. I dare you to read the prologue and the book, and not fall in love with Atticus. He’s a heroic little figure. Ryan’s description of Atticus Maxwell Finch is a wonderful depiction of the little fellow. However, it sums up Tom Ryan’s spirit, and the book, as well. “He is Frodo Baggins; he is Don Quixote; he is Huck Finn. He is every unlikely hero who ever took a step out the door and found himself swept up in adventure.”
Tom Ryan’s website is www.tomandatticus.blogspot.com
Following Atticus by Tom Ryan. William Morrow. ©2011. ISBN 9780061997105 (hardcover), 276p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.