Title: A Man of His Own by Susan Wilson
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Rick Stanton was a promising professional baseball player with dreams of playing in the major leagues and starting a family with his young wife, Francesca, when World War II changed everything. Rick returns from the war with his body broken and his dreams shattered. But it was not just body and spirit he sacrificed for the war. He and Francesca volunteered their beloved dog, Pax, for the Army’s K-9 Corp, not knowing if they’d ever see him again.
Keller Nicholson is the soldier who fought the war with Pax by his side, and the two have the kind of profound bond that can only be forged in war. Pax is the closest Keller has to a sense of family, and he can’t bear the thought of returning him to the Stantons. But Rick and Francesca refuse to give him up. Instead, an arrangement is made: Keller will work as Rick’s live-in aide. And thus an unlikely family is formed, with steadfast Pax at the center. As they try to build a new life out of the ashes, Keller and Francesca struggle to ignore their growing attraction to each other, and Rick, believing that he can no longer give Francesca what she needs and wants, quietly plans a way out.
All three of them need healing. All three of them are lost. And in Susan Wilson’s A Man of His Own, Pax, with his unconditional love and unwavering loyalty, may be the only one who can guide them home.
The sweet and heartwarming story of a remarkable dog who touches three people’s lives, Susan Wilson’s A Man of His Own is sure to be a hit with animal lovers.
Rescued as stray when he was just eight weeks old by aspiring baseball pitcher Rick Stanton, Pax is a beloved family pet that is a source of comfort to his wife, Francesca, while Rick is on the road during baseball season and after Rick is drafted into service during WW II. But the most important role of Pax’s life comes when he becomes a part of the Dogs for Defense program and he fully captures the heart of his trainer, Keller Nicholson. Reluctant to return Pax to the Stantons after both he and Pax have been released from service, Keller accepts Stantons’ offer to become Rick’s caregiver. With Pax as the heart and soul of their unusual family, Rick grows increasingly despondent as he struggles to overcome his debilitating injuries while Keller and Francesca are confronted with an unexpected attraction to one another.
A Man of His Own spans the years leading up to, during and after World War II. Beginning with Rick’s rise from the minor leagues to the majors, his early years of marriage to Francesca and a brief snapshot of his wartime service, the majority of the novel takes place after Rick and Keller have returned home from the war. Rick’s struggles to deal with his catastrophic life-altering and career ending injuries are heartbreaking and he finds it impossible to confide his guilt over his role in the loss of his comrades in arms. Francesca is still deeply in love with Rick, but she is growing increasingly frustrated with his inability to adapt to his new circumstances. For the first time in his life Keller experiences unconditional love when he is paired with Pax and while he initially agrees to stay because he cannot bear to be separated from him, Keller soon finds himself falling in love with Francesca while caring for Rick. But the best part of the story is Pax and his unwavering love and loyalty to the humans in his life and his uncanny ability to recognize and fulfill all of their different needs.
Told in present tense from all of the characters’ (including Pax) perspectives, A Man of His Own is an engrossing story of love and devotion that unfolds at a leisurely pace. Susan Wilson keeps readers guessing exactly how this engaging and emotional novel will end. A lovely epilogue ties up all of the loose ends and brings this beautiful tale to a bit of a teary finish. An all around wonderfully unique story that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.