by Jeanne Ray

Shaye Areheart Books, New York, 2002. ISBN 0609610031.
Reviewed by Peggy Talley
Posted on 08/15/2002

Fiction: Chick Lit

If you've ever been a member of a family, a daughter, a mother, a sister or just female, this book will appeal to you. An episode in the life of an average family, it is told in the voice of the mother. The story starts on a peaceful, quiet afternoon when a conversation with her husband is interrupted by the ring of the telephone. The husband answers but soon hands her the phone.

The author writes, "From the other end of the line there was a great deal of sobbing and snuffling, and immediately I felt my shoulders drop with relaxation. It was a sobbing and snuffling I knew. I can't explain how. It was as if I came with a secret decoder ring that made me capable of distinguishing the intent of my daughter's cries."

That conversation is just the beginning of the storm this woman and her family will face in the coming days. After learning why her daughter is crying, there is another phone call—this one from her sister, who is also crying, and who announces that she must come for a visit. Come she does, and brings with her the dog described thusly:

"A second later we heard a round of unrepentantly vicious barking. When I got to the kitchen, Kay was yelling at Stamp, who had stopped about six inches from Woodrow's shoes. Every bark was a small explosion that momentarily forced all four of the dog's feet off the floor. The bark was so high, so nerve shattering, that I felt as if it was reprogramming the regular beating of my heart. Woodrow, on the other hand, never flinched, even though he was the one who was about to be swallowed whole by a twenty-pound fox terrier. He simply sat at the kitchen table and continued to drink his coffee, which in turn drove the dog to new levels of hysteria. Kay scooped Stamp up and, and without thinking, tossed him out the back door, at which point he immediately charged at the four men who were unloading cement from a truck. In one balletic gesture the four leapt up and into the flatbed while the dog jumped up and up and up, every time almost reaching the back of the truck and every time crashing back into the driveway undeterred. The very hound from hell."

Just in case you haven't written down the name and author yet, and just in case you haven't grinned or maybe even chuckled, I will tempt you with one last paragraph.

"We were three women sitting on the floor crying, with a suitcase the size of a Buick lodged halfway in and halfway out of the open front door. We were contemplating the institution of marriage, how it might fail or succeed, when Tom walked in and found us there. Stamp, startled from his sound sleep, woke up and bit him."
Believe it or not, the book isn't about the dog. Stamp just happens to play an important role in a story that could have happened in any of our lives. Jeanne Ray's characters are so much like our friends or members of our families. Everything that happens to them could have happened to any of us, but it takes an author like her to make it so laugh-out-loud funny. Summer isn't over quite yet, and this is a "must read." I hope someday I can write a book something like this one.

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