Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Review: Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

Paperback, 340 pages
Published January 29th 2014 by Beltor
Terri's Thoughts

I received a copy of this book directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you.

This was a truly touching story.  Take an autistic boy, an elderly woman who has unfinished dreams and add in some dogs the result is a story about learning about yourself and your capabilities.  How Benny and Bess helped each other to change their current reality was magnificent.

The fact that this story centralizes around dogs touched upon a weakness of mine.  Although I am of the same opinion as Benny in the story and I don't consider poodles "real dogs" and would take my golden retriever any day, I do know about a humans love for a dog and vice versa.  This story captures that and McCreery's actions towards the end of the story was heartwarming.  I do also believe that dogs have the ability to heal and shed perspective on things all without being able to speak.  I loved this aspect of the story.

Ultimately this was a story about loss and loneliness and overcoming these by finding your own passions.  Its a story about going for your dream or just discovering what your dream is.  This was an easy read with an uplifting topic and will be sure to please most audiences. It is clear that Manning has done some research on show dogs and has a passion for dogs herself. I am glad I had the opportunity to discover this book.

About the Author

Diane Daniels Manning was raised in Redding, Connecticut, the setting for her novel ALMOST PERFECT. As a youngster, she rode her bike up and down former cow paths to the Mark Twain Library where she plundered the children's shelves and fantasized she'd grow up to a famous writer like Samuel Clemens.

Inevitably she was educated, taught English and reading in Connecticut, and earned a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H. from Harvard. She climbed the tenure ladder and served as Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities at Tufts University. There she became convinced that special needs children are best helped when equal attention is paid to their emotional and their academic lives. Her Standard Poodle, Bel Tor Mandy, accompanied her to work daily and taught her the therapeutic benefit of animals.

Following an appointment in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard School of Public Health, she moved to New Orleans where she served as Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane and became certified as a child and adult psychoanalyst by the American Psychoanalytic Association. In 2005, she moved to Houston and co-founded The New School in the Heights ( , a therapeutic school for bright children with social and emotional challenges. She continues to serve as Executive Director.

Diane's writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and a Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition. She learned the workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a past President of the Poodle Club of America. When not at The New School in the Heights, she and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty.


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