I am sucker for a good animal story, that is a well known fact. So while at my local library picking up other assorted books I saw this one on the new book display. Of course I had to pick it up! I mean the little doggie on the front is so stinken cute! The book must be too right? Oh wait…I judged a book by the cover which is a total rookie movie.
The book Top Dog: The Story of Marine Hero Lucca by Maria Goodavage follows the adorable dog (really there is no way to resist picking up the book the her on the cover) from the start of her formal training through her retirement. The story begins in roughly 2006, making Lucca part of the troop surge in 2007 for a bit of background. I am not ashamed to say I cried at parts. No animal lover could stay dry eyed at some of the sweet moments between dog and handler, or when a dog is lost. Spoiler, Lucca lives well into retirement.
The story is fantastic, amazing, heartwarming, and truly touching. The story teller, not so much. There wasn’t enough of the dog in the book. There is an entire chunk of the book that is all about Lucca’s handler, Willingham, while he is deployed but without Lucca. Now I am not making light of his service or his role in the story, but the story is supposed to be about Lucca. How can whole chapters of the book go on without her? I wanted to hear more about her specific training, the missions they went on together, and even more on how the team interacted with the units they were integrated in. Instead, the book is full of asides from the perspective of Willingham (handler number one) and Rod (handler number two) that speak a lot to their state of mind and to gives us perspective of their lives.
What bothered me the most about the book was the writing style. The flow was choppy, the wording was repetitive, the transitions were clunky, and many of the sentences/paragraphs just ended. I felt like I was either miss-reading or just missing large sections of the chapters. Conversely, she would into great detail about insignificant moments or take the time to detail out exact quotations, then end on a one sentence throw away line. I couldn’t decide if she was just trying to simplify her writing to make it more accessible or if that was just her (bad) style. Either way, it made for some painful reading, but I wanted to know how it turned out for Lucca.
The story deserves to be told, of that there is no doubt. But I don’t think they picked the right woman for the job. I will be searching for a better telling of the tale, if you now of one please let me know in the comments!
Love and puppies,