Follow Here To Purchase Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

Author: Tom Ryan

Publisher: William Morrow

ISBN: 978-0061997105

There are two kinds of people in the world: those whose annual holiday card portraits include the family pet, and those who roll their eyes when they get such a card in the mail.

For much of my life, I was in the latter category, thinking that people who treat animals like family members have something, well, wrong with them. I was not an animal lover, and the close connection between people and their pets was absolutely lost on me. But then something happened to completely change my feelings. When my daughters were young, they brought home a kitten that had fallen through a hole in the roof of their kindergarten classroom. His name was Victor, and though he is no longer with us, the week doesn’t go by that I don’t think of him (though now his memory competes for attention with the three rescue cats – make that “family members” – who now share our house.)

Most books I’ve read that explore the animal-human bond tend to cater to those who are already converts to cross-species communing (and of course there are other, snarky titles like “101 Uses of a Dead Cat” that cater to the other camp). It’s rare that a book can speak to both types of people, so disparate are they in their relationship to the animal kingdom.

For that reason alone, Tom Ryan’s Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship is a noteworthy book. But the pleasures of reading this moving, thoughtful, and superbly spun non-fiction narrative go far beyond its comprehensiveness. I can’t imagine the reader who wouldn’t be touched by the pathos of this tale, or stirred by its gentle, humble heroism – and I don’t think I would want to meet such a person.

But I would like to meet Ryan – and more particularly, Ryan’s miniature schnauzer companion, Atticus M. Finch, one of the most interesting characters I’ve encountered in literature in some time. Dog lovers know that canines, like people, have individual personalities, but even the most ardent animal lover will be forced to attest that little Atticus exhibits an unusually compelling nature.

Ryan, who stumbled into journalism at a relatively late point in his professional career, conveys the tale of his sojourn through the peaks of New Hampshire with Atticus in a tone that is both conversational and deeply informed. Ryan can cite Whitman, Thoreau, Einstein, or Emerson unobtrusively, and at just the right moment, to drive home his points. But he hardly needs to rely on other writers’ words. His work is elegant in its simplicity, and his use of foreshadowing, characterization, and description would be the envy of any fiction writer.

The book crosses almost as many genres as Ryan and Atticus cross mountain passes. It is part memoir, part naturalists’ guide, part biography of a small town in the Northeast, part animal training guide, and part spiritual meditation. The wonderful thing about the book is how easily and unobtrusively Ryan switches among these narrative modes, never preachy, always tempered by his own fallibility and energized by a genuine sense of discovery.

Following Atticus is a superb book, Ryan’s four-footed friend a fitting successor to Steinbeck’s Charley or John Grogan’s Marley. The animal lover in you will not want this book to end. And the non-animal lover? I suspect few humans who read this book will have the power to remain in that camp for long.


Follow Here To Purchase Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship