Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: “The Pug List” by Alison Hodgson

Synopsis from the back cover:

“What if a wheezing, sneezing, allegedly house-trained, ticking time bomb of an orphan pug is the key to helping a family feel at home again, after an arsonist set their house—and life—on fire? If you asked me, I would have said it’s a bad idea; we can do better. Unfortunately no one asked me, and The Pug List is my family’s story.”

In the fire’s aftermath of insurance battles royal, rebuilding plans, parenting in the face of life’s hard questions and a scorching case of post-traumatic stress, now is absolutely the worst possible time to adopt a dog. But to Alison’s seven-year-old daughter, Eden, it’s the perfect time—and The Relentless Campaign begins.

Until one day Alison peeks inside Eden’s diary—dubbed “The Pug List”—and realizes in one fell swoop that her girl’s heart is on the line, and resistance is futile (“The pugs make me happy FOREVER.”).

Enter “Outrageous” Oliver, and the hilarity, healing, and irresistible hope that follows.

The story of a family who loses their home and almost every material possession they own after an arsonist burns their house down should not sound like something any reader would enjoy. Yet enjoy this book was exactly what I did! While the Hodgson family did suffer through this very tragedy, the story isn't really about the fire itself but rather how each member of the family – wife and mother Alison, husband and father Paul, and their kids Christopher, Lydia, and Eden – travels the emotional journey to grieve for what they’ve lost and eventually come to terms with this tragedy that has beset their lives and start rebuilding their lives. Each person learns to cope in different ways, but what finally brings them all together is one absolutely ridiculous little black pug dog named Oliver – or "Outrageous Oliver," the moniker his breeder / foster mom has given him. Oliver's appearance in the Hodgson family's lives is what finally shows them how to begin enjoying life again and get themselves back to some semblance of a new normal.

At the risk of repeating myself, I really did enjoy this book; while the sadness and tragedy of this true story – every family’s worst nightmare, I think – is palpable throughout, the way that the Hodgson family learns to lean on their Christian faith to get through the fire and its aftermath – and how that faith then grows in the process – is something that every Christian can appreciate and ultimately relate to. What’s more, Alison Hodgson’s writing is also raw, honest, and uncensored, which is something I, as a fellow writer, can appreciate, and that readers will appreciate as well. She doesn’t cut corners or leave out the gory details, she puts everyone’s humanity out there for the world to see, which is something I find admirable in an author – and something that makes this a Really Good Book.

That said, my only disappointments with this book were that, for one, I expected Oliver’s appearance to happen much earlier in the story; Hodgson doesn’t actually get to him until more than halfway through the book. But once “Outrageous Oliver” is finally a part of the story, he’s there to stay, and readers won’t be able to get enough of him. I instantly fell in love that “ridiculous little dog” and how he becomes a cherished member of the Hodgson family.

So if you’re a person of faith, a dog lover, or if you just want to read a story with a great happy ending, “The Pug List” is for you! Find your copy on Amazon today.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of "The Pug List" free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

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