Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances"

Ellen Cooney is a fiction writer who lives in midcoast Maine. She is the author of nine novels; her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals.

Cooney applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, and reported the following:
From Page 69:
Shadow plopped down across my outstretched legs and made the weak little whine-sounds of dogs who want to bark, but don’t. I looked over at Giant George to see if he was getting this on video. He wasn’t. He was strolling to the bins. Hank took no notice, due to his feeling that nothing was more important than pacing. But the rest of them forgot about me and took off for Giant George. They were all looking up at the treats he held in his hand. He lavished them with Good looking up, guys, and Way to go with learning looking up. All I could do was listen to the clicking of Hank’s paw-nails on the floor as he paced, and the peacefulness of three dogs eating biscuits.

Giant George took hold of Hank and snapped on a leash. While he was doing this, Tasha jumped him, as if he had a treat in a pocket, just for her. He pushed her away and told her, Bad move. She didn’t seem sorry. Shadow and Josie looked at her like they were proud of her, like she was the coolest one in the room. Hank tried to start pacing again. But the leash was too short. And that was how it went with my first class.

I watched from a lobby window as Giant George set off in his snowshoes, away from the inn, holding the leashes of Hank and Shadow and Tasha. Josie was in a pack on his back, her little white head sticking up like the head of a toy. Giant George had left the Jeep on the mountain road, so he and the three bigger dogs could get some exercise. I wondered how high up the mountain it was, but I couldn’t go after them, not in all that snow.

When they were out of sight, I knocked on the kitchen door. Mrs. Auberchon came to see what I wanted. I was not invited in. I asked her, were there snowshoes anywhere around the inn I could borrow, to go out and practice on? She said there weren’t.
To my surprise, the random pick-a-page test shows a basic element of The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances. It’s about a young woman named Evie who journeys to a mysterious, snowy sanctuary for rescued dogs—Evie wants to become a dog trainer, although she’d made the decision impulsively, as she knows zero about animals, and she never ever had a pet. She’s only 24, but she’d done a good job of messing up her previous chances. She’d felt like an outsider in her own life; in this excerpt, she’s an outsider (for now) at her new “school.” About the snowshoes: she had lied by telling everyone she knew how to walk on them, and got found out. She had lied about her animal-experience too!

Funny how, in this random-ness, the three major characters of the novel are all there: Evie, the teenage boy called “Giant George” who works with the dogs, and Mrs. Auberchon, the manager of the inn connected to the sanctuary, and also a helping member of the staff. Plus, the major dog-characters are here, doing their thing of being dogs. And there’s a sense of Evie’s dawning connections to both humans and dogs. I lucked out with this test—it’s like a whole body of water in one drop!
Visit Ellen Cooney's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Cooney & Andy, Skip, and Maxine.

My Book, The Movie: The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances.

--Marshal Zeringue