The story begins on a snowy night in New York City. Alexander “Sandy” Vandermeer Regal Portman is on his way to pick up his wife Emily, from the Upper West Side Animal Clinic where she works as a volunteer. When a yellow taxi cab swerves to avoid a little white dog running loose in the street Sandy dies in the ensuing collision.
For reasons that gradually become clear, as the story unfolds, Sandy is given a second chance at life, a chance to make amends to his wife. When he awakens to find himself inside the battered and broken body of the ugly little dog that caused the accident he has no clue just what this second chance will cost him.
“I don’t know how long I lay there, moaning in the semidarkness and barn stench, without dying before I heard a door open. “Einstein?” It was a woman’s voice, one that I recognised. I was stunned and overjoyed when Emily appeared before the cage, her blue eyes filled with concern”
“I named him without thinking, gently running my palm over the tufts of white wiry fur that stood up on his head and I knew that I had to save the animal, as if I could do so I could save my husband”
Emily’s distant and cold hearted mother in law, Althea Portman, arranges Sandy’s funeral without consulting her. After the funeral she delivers another stunning blow when she tells Emily that her beloved home, an apartment in the Dakota building on the Upper West Side, belongs to the Portman Family Trust. It isn’t long before the eviction notice is served.
Emily adopts Einstein and brings him home.
“We took a cab to the Dakota, my new dog stood on the seat next to me, his paws on the armrest so he could look out the window. He panted excitedly at the sight of the light brown sandstone and brick building with its high gables and deeply pitched roofs, balustrades and spandrels, the porte cochere archway leading in to the inner courtyard entrance.”
Emily is desperate to find proof that she owns the apartment, each evening after work she spends hours searching. When not searching, she bakes….. endless cupcakes, croissants and cookies.
|cupcakes, croissants & cookies.|
Finally she resorts to ransacking Sandy’s private suite of rooms where she discovers his handwritten journals. As she reads her husband’s innermost thoughts Einstein tries to knock the last journal out of her hands.
Too late she discovers that for the last two years of their marriage Sandy had been unfaithful to her, many, many times.
“The pages forced me to admit what deep down I had already known but refused to see”
This isn't just a book about a marriage that went wrong, it's also about redemption as Sandy/Einstein tries to help Emily move on with her life and perhaps achieve as a dog, the greatness he always aspired to as a man, in the process. Sandy always dreamed of taking part in the New York marathon, when Emily can hardly drag herself out of bed to go to work in the morning Einstein forces her over the road and into Central Park.
I particularly enjoyed the relationship that develops between Emily and Einstein. As a dog owner of over 30 years I could relate to the “conversations” that the two of them have.
There is also a long list of other well drawn characters in this book, Emily’s rebellious younger sister Jordan; their deceased mother Lillian Barlow, a renowned leader of the feminist movement who influenced both of their lives greatly but in different ways; Emily’s work colleagues and neighbour Max.
I would give this book 4****.
Now to get back to that baking disaster.
Like Emily I love to bake and for this food for thought review decided that a New York cheesecake would be perfect.
Unfortunately ten minutes after the cheesecake was in the oven the spring form pan that it was baking in sprang open!
Oh! Yes, molten cheesecake, running out of the oven over the countertops. As I struggled to remove the baking rack the contents spilled all over the kitchen floor, disaster, ruined!
It’s a universal excuse but in this case it’s true the dog (Mr Ben) really did eat my homework, my floor has never been so clean!