The Dog Walker
by Leslie Schnur, contemporary (2004)
Pocket, 6.99, ISBN 0-7434-8950-0


Convoluted, filled with painful big misunderstandings, and not at all funny, Leslie Schnur's debut The Dog Walker is like a Revenge of the Angry Authors moment: this former editor-in-chief's debut will invite "No wonder she's a former editor-in-chief!" wisecracks from any aspiring author reading this book. Any reader with a really low threshold for twin switch plots and enough big misunderstandings to make silence the new black should avoid this book. Chick-lit ditziness is one thing, but this book is a mess.

Let me hope that Nina Shephard is not Ms Schnur's Mary Sue because that is really depressing and I will be tempted to send her a "Hope you're better" get-well card. Nina, a thirty-five year old divorcee quits her job to make money from walking doggies of rich people. Naturally the Disagreeable Mother is not happy. As Nina muddles along the laundry list of whine and moan typical of chick-lit heroines in the Job Not, Men Not situation, she falls in love on sight unseen with Daniel, whose apartment she snoops around in while walking Daniel's dog. But it turns out that it is Billy, Daniel's twin, that she is falling for and Billy, being a musician, must have listened to country music for so long that he mistakes his saxophone for a totem pole to the Love Not, Just Shag Her, Then Move On principle.

But all may still be okay if the author doesn't introduce a maddeningly dumb conflict to tear the two apart, a conflict that will cause hands of readers everywhere who are really disgusted with transparent big misunderstanding contrivances to raise in unison to cast this book against the wall hard. And it's not as if this book is funny either. Ms Schnur's sense of comedy is more at the level of a one-liner cranker for Looney Tunes. Whenever she has a character crack a joke, other characters will quickly rush to point out how funny that joke is, as if Ms Schnur is sure that the reader may not get it. Well, this reader certainly doesn't. When an author has to start telling her reader when to laugh, that's when she's trying too hard to be funny.

There is a reason why a part of me still wants to like this convoluted mess though. The plot is completely discardable, or at least deserving of exile to the deepest levels of Bad Series Romances Hells, but I really like how the author uses the tortured musician schtick in her story. I have no patience for men who refuse to love for the flimsiest of reasons but I have an inexplicable weakness for music men who make beautiful music while tormenting themselves unnecessarily. The part of me that has Jeff Buckley on my CD shelves, that silly part of me that cries even during the fifth rewatching of that Chinese tearjerker I Have A Date With Spring, that silly part of me who sighs at the scene where Billy plays his music and realizes that he loves Nina, well, that part of me likes Billy despite his nonsense. Or maybe, because of his nonsense.

It's really too bad that this book is so painful to read in every other manner. I hope the author's next book is less of a dog to finish that this one.

Rating: 47


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