The arresting picture of a sturdy black and white miniature schnauzer on the cover of this book was what first drew me in. The dog, Atticus M. Finch, looked so much like Lucille Doll, my beloved miniature schnauzer who passed away three years ago, that I just had to read the book, regardless of what it was about. If it featured a miniature schnauzer it had to be good. Well, I admit, those aren’t usually the best standards by which to rate a book but lucky for me, my theory proved to be correct. Following Atticus by Tom Ryan is just a gem of a book that’s hard to pigeonhole into a single genre.
On one level it’s a story about how Tom changed his life from being a self-described “middle-aged, overweight newspaper editor” in the small Vermont town of Newburyport to an active person more interested in the outdoors than backroom politics. It’s also about how the bond with a cherished animal can affect great change in someone’s life. With Atticus’ steady companionship Tom steps out of his routine and starts to do amazing things like attempting to climb all 48 of New Hampshire’s White Mountains that are over 4,000 feet tall. Surprisingly, Atticus and Tom are able to accomplish that together over the course of one summer.
After his friend Vicky dies of cancer, he decides to try to climb all 48 peaks during winter as a fund raiser in her memory. Wait, not just 48 peaks during one winter. If once around is good, twice is better. So Tom and Atticus take a leave of absence from his newspaper, The Undertoad, and set out to climb all 48 peaks twice over the course of one winter. That’s 96 peaks in 90 days.
Following Atticus contains many descriptions about these hikes, but it is only part of the story. The book is an adventure story and also a captivatingly described journey of self-discovery. After their winter feat, Atticus faces some physical challenges of his own. His bond with Tom grows even stronger as they fight his battles together. Don’t worry, Atticus doesn’t die. But between Tom’s descriptions of a bleak childhood, his attempts to forge some sort or relationship with his distant father; and Atticus’ struggles to retain his sight there were multiple times I was brought to tears.
Ultimately it’s a story of quiet triumph and living your authentic life. Like I said, if a book features a miniature schnauzer, it’s got to be great.
You can also follow the continuing saga of Tom and Atticus on The Adventure of Tom and Atticus blog which Tom Ryan updates regularly.
Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.