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Anne Abel
Mattie, Milo, and Me
Anne Abel, author
Anne grew up in an abusive home, leading to severe depression and a determination to do better as a mother. One of her sons wants a dog from the time he is a baby; Anne very much does not. For years she appeases him with creatures who live in cages and tanks, but on his tenth birthday she can no longer say no – and she proceeds to fall in love with their new four-legged family member, Mattie. Then, Mattie dies a sudden and tragic death, and Anne feels herself begin to sink back into depression. Trying to cope, she immediately adopts Milo, a dog who, unbeknownst to her, has already been returned to the rescue by several families due to his aggressive behavior. Even after Anne realizes Milo is dangerous, she’s committed to trying to give him a chance at a good life.
Abel debuts with a heart-warming memoir spotlighting the intense bond between dogs and their owners. Plagued by depression stemming from an abusive childhood, Abel vows her “primary goal in life [is] to be a good mother,” and after years of her son begging for a dog, she finally gives in—adopting Mattie, a wheaten terrier, who becomes an important link in Abel’s fight against depression. When a UPS driver accidentally runs over Mattie, Abel feels herself sinking into darkness again, prompting her search for a new four-legged companion. Enter Milo, a mixed breed, “one of a kind dog” who instantly connects with the family—but comes with baggage of his own.

This is a sweet ode to the joy of nurturing animals, though Abel admittedly has her work cut out for her in training Milo, an aggressive alpha dog who the family quickly realizes is a far cry from their previous pet. Abel and Milo's journey through training, asserting dominance, and learning to trust each other is an endearing story of overcoming grief, finding coping mechanisms in the most unlikely places, and the love between a dog and its owner. Abel refuses to give up on Milo, even after being warned of his volatility, writing that she was "determined to save him."

Animal lovers will relish the central role that Abel’s pets play in her wellbeing throughout the narrative, as she goes from adamantly avoiding dog ownership—due to a traumatic experience in childhood, when her father threw her puppy down a flight of stairs—to discovering not just camaraderie, but also healing in the human/animal bond. Abel writes transparently about the struggle to tame Milo, her troubling relationship with her parents, and the supportive nuclear family she establishes as an adult. This compassionately vulnerable memoir is, in Abel’s own words, a manifestation of her “determination to create an environment of unconditional love.”

Takeaway: Touching ode to the bond between humans and pets.

Comparable Titles: Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, John Grogan's Marley & Me.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A