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A man, his dog, and a long walk can lead to unexpected discoveries. In the tradition of many literary walkers, David W. Berner sets out on foot hoping to reexamine his life, look back and forward, and most importantly, through the help of his young dog, Sam, try to find harmony in new beginnings and the uncertainties of the present. In a series of chapters, each dedicated to one walk during a summer of hiking, the author finds that it is his beloved pet that allows him to awaken to a new spirit of mindfulness, finding beauty, wonder, and comfort in the ordinary, and to see a life, a neighborhood, and even a country with brand new eyes. ‘With gentle humor and brilliant musings, both past and present, Walks With Sam has the charm and the innate truthfulness that some find in a work of art, a daily quest tinged with wonder and mystery with each forward step.’ L.B.Johnson, author of The Book of Barkley.
This non-fiction narrative relates deeply contemplative walks with Sam, the author’s doggy-doodle, a scruffy-haired 40 pound going on two year old enthusiastic female dog.
She loves the walks so consistently provided by Mr. Berner. He has taken a sabbatical from his college position to reflect, regroup, and reinvest in himself and the world of this amazing canine who teaches him with each walk to live in the moment. Forced to slow and enjoy the neighborhood, noting all the nuances that he’s previously breezed by, his focus is now on the minutiae gone unnoticed and now a full on profound and enlightening discovery.
The author has chronicled each walk beginning early spring through the summer and in each proceeds to have heart-to-hearts with his loyal canine buddy. He waxes poetic, he turns philosophical, he turns the mundane into prose. He can go to extraordinary lengths to explain himself to the dog, who in turn grins and wags her tail. While he imagines her thoughtful comments and retorts in reply, I can’t imagine she’s hearing anything more than blah, blah, blah, treat, blah, blah, blah, good girl.
Who gets the most out of these walks?
Dog or dog walker?
The walks are not always in his quiet suburban Chicago neighborhood. He and his wife spend some time in Iowa, house/doggy sitting with Franco, a male. But each walk serves up a lesson and tries to make a point—not all succeed. I am, however, reminded that it is the dog’s walk and there is no reward for the human who wants to hurry. It serves only to discover what the author actually believes in—what is important to him.
The walks are leisurely and the author manages to find mysticism in the most simple of experiences—confronting a doe with her fawns, the jealousy of Sam when he pays attention to another dog, or his repeated attempts at training with a special treat. I found it interesting, however, that both his current canine and that of his previous, had their names shortened to the more common male form—Sam and Mike (Michelle, a yellow Lab).
An interesting narrative that goes beyond anthropomorphic discussion, I discovered two common experiences—one, that Sam obviously knows (after she’s been groomed) that she’s pretty—“I am so pretty. And I smell absolutely fantastic…” (How many times have I witnessed this with our Bichon?) And while his communication with Sam tends to morph into long-winded attempts at conversation, his wife’s stays on a canine level (i.e., commands), which is the same in our house. My assumption is you can’t reason with a two year old, be it human or canine.
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Meditation, Nature, Pets, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Roundfire Books
ISBN : 1789044987
ASIN : B08F2Y2Y9X
Print Length: 169 pages
Publication Date: Releasing today, August 28, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Rosepoint Publishing: Three Point Five of Five Stars
The Author: David W. Berner is the award-winning author of A WELL-RESPECTED MAN, OCTOBER SONG, ACCIDENTAL LESSONS, ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE, THERE’S A HAMSTER IN THE DASHBOARD, NIGHT RADIO, and the memoir THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS. He has been honored and won awards from the prestigious Society of Midland Authors and the Chicago Writers Association. David has also been the Writer-in-Residence at both the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, FL and at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, IL.
David moved from Pittsburgh to Chicago to work as a radio reporter and news anchor for CBS Radio and later pursued a career as a writer and educator. His first book ACCIDENTAL LESSONS is about his year teaching in one of the Chicago area’s most troubled school districts. The book won the Golden Dragonfly Grand Prize for Literature and has been called a “beautiful, elegantly written book” by award-winning author Thomas E. Kennedy, and “a terrific memoir” by Rick Kogan (Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio). ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE–a 2013 Book of the Year from the Chicago Writers Association–is the author’s story of a cross-country road trip with his sons and the revelations of fatherhood. The memoir has been called “heartwarming and heartbreaking” and “a five-star wonderful read.” His novel, A WELL-RESPECTED MAN was a 2019 honoree in the fiction category of The Society of Midland Authors Awards.
©2020 V Williams