Is it ever too late to dream? Author Diane Daniels Manning explores the implications in Almost Perfect, a touching novel about an older woman who feels her time has passed and a 14 year-old boy, with mild autism, whose dogged determination demonstrates how one is never too old—or limited—to continue to have goals and aspirations.
The story begins as Elizabeth "Bess" Rutledge has all but given up her livelihood, serving as one of America's top breeders of Standard Poodles, and her dreams of someday winning Westminster, the premiere dog show in all the world. Bess closes up her once-famous kennel, "Umpawaug," located in rural Connecticut and keeps only two dogs: McCreery, one of her aging champions, and his rambunctious, handsome son, Breaker.
At the same time, Benny, a lonely boy who lives nearby—unhappily, with his neglectful father and stepmother and a distant mother whose affection Benny fervently craves—longs to have a dog to keep him company. When the boy with "curly, reddish hair and baby smooth cheeks" accidentally discovers Umpawaug Kennel and meets and falls in love with McCreery and Breaker, his desire to have a dog grows even stronger. His father remains adamant against the prospect. But when Benny learns of Bess's history with dog shows, he decides that if he can learn to become a dog handler and ultimately show Bess's champions at Westminster, he might finally win the attention of his self-centered mother.
Set-in-her-ways, headstrong Bess initially resists Benny's proposition. But with Benny's relentless prodding and determination—along with the encouraging support of Bess's sister, son and a counselor from the special school Benny attends—Bess softens and an unlikely partnership-mentorship forms.
Can these two, vastly different people help each other fulfill their respective dreams? Can Bess really put her faith in Benny? Is he capable of becoming a dog handler and facing the stresses of learning how to show Bess's beloved poodles?
Diane Daniels Manning has crafted a sensitive, hope-filled story about a friendship that slowly blooms in and out of dog show arenas, while also offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the suspenseful world of show-dog competition. McCreery and Breaker may be at the heart of this moving novel, but they also serve the larger theme of how dogs and canine companions often bring unlikely people together, forming life-changing bonds that can resurrect and heal the human spirit.
Beltor, $9.99 paperback, 9780578136394 , 342 pp
Publication Date: January 29, 2014
Note: Up to 100% of the author's profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children. Visit the author's website (www.diandanielsmanning.com) to learn more