Meet the protagonists!
Protagonist 1 is named Abby Richmond, with her Newfoundland, Bowser:
So that works
Abby drives a full-size station wagon, which Bowser cannot stand up inside. She’s just inherited the Temple Street Coffeehouse. Page two gets us this charming little sentence:
She’d always thought of Ohio as flat and brown compared to the lush ripeness of landscaped Southern California
LOL. Let’s compare, shall we? Southern california:
You see, Southern California is naturally what we like to call a “desert”. That means, it’s not very green except where people spend hundreds of dollars pumping in water in an effort to cultivate a lawn. The part of Ohio I live in, on the other hand, is a fertile, abundant valley. I’m not sure what part of Ohio the book takes place in, but I’ve driven up and down the state to conventions and the like, and it pretty much all looks lush and green.
“I suppose it’s as bleak and scrubby as it always was?”
Bleak and scrubby are great words to describe the landscape I saw when I drove south from my old home in San Francisco. Too bad the book seems to think they apply to Ohio. L.O.L.
Astute readers will notice the presence of quotation marks in the previous quote and assume a second character has entered the scene. And they’d be half-right: Abby’s mother, still in Southern California, has called her to nag. I can sympathize with overbearing mothers! Abby considers staying here in this property she’s inherited, mostly to piss off her mother. Her mother gets even:
“Someone’s been trying to get in touch with you [...] some moldy old professor. Apparently, my mother promised him cookies, or something equally ridiculous. I didn’t want to give him your cell phone number, but he was quite insistent She was probably sleeping with him. “
Abby’s grandmother, who has passed on leaving her the house and coffee shop, apparently used to bake quite well.
The first floor of the building was like a railroad flat — two long and narrow rooms. The French doors opened up into a kitchen, with a wide island in the middle, a series of commercial ovens and a storeroom on one side, semi-enclosed stairs on the other. The front room was dusty, chairs piled haphazardly around the room, the afternoon light filtering through the fly-specked storefront windows, but even with the musty, closed-up scent, she could still find the faint trace of cinnamon and coffee on the air.
I include this description because from what I understand, this is one of the two main buildings that provide a central focal point for the story to be rooted within. This coffee shop was well-known, and Abby’s grandmother well-liked.
Professor Mackenzie has the most absurd of requests:
“Your grandmother contracted to make cookies for a reception I’m holding tomorrow for the math department. I’d like to know whether you’re going to fulfill that contract or if I need to make other arrangements.”
Abby glanced around her. “I think you’ll be making other arrangements,” she said. “I just arrived, and I don’t bake.”
“Fine. In which case you can return my deposit.”
“You didn’t give me any money.”
“You’re your grandmother’s heir. Your mother assured me you’d either return the deposit or fulfill Bea’s obligations.”
“My mother knows I don’t have a red cent to my name.”
“Then you’d better learn to bake.”
Protagonist number 2 is named Daisy Harris, and “her” dog is a seventeen-pound Jack Russell “terror” named Bailey.
This is her mother’s dog (are you sensing a theme? I think mothers are going to be central to this book); she’s been charged with taking care of it temporarily.
(Side note: Abby calls her mother “Amanda” and Daisy calls her mother “Peg”. Does nobody call their mother “Mom” in this book?)
Bailey has some serious discipline issues: he likes to spin in circles, jump, and drag people around, and Daisy can’t seem to get control of him to save her life. And he’s apparently got way more force than a dog his size should be able to exert:
Bailey darted forward, dragging her a good three feet and seriously aggravating her tiny person’s complex. She dug in her heels and pulled back, but then he decided to run back to her, taking away the opposing force she was straining against. Daisy landed on the grass with a thunk just as Bailey harged her, licking her face over and over again with sloppy, stinky dog tongue.
I’m beginning to wonder if Daisy isn’t a Little Person rather than just a small person, but I’ve yet to see any clarification in the text other than repeatedly calling her “small”. She’s been taking care of the dog for two days, and already is sick to death of him chewing things, moving things, pooping, and basically behaving like a dog. Peg, it seems, has developed a sudden and severe allergy to her own dog; unfortunately for Daisy, the doctor’s first attempt at a remedy did not work, and she’ll have to hold onto the dog a little longer while they try some other treatment.
“I don’t have room in my life for your dog. I have a CD rack to re-alphabetize thanks to him, and some couch pillows that will never be the same, and–”
“I thought you two would have fun,” Peg said. “I thought you’d enjoy having a roommate, for a while.”
“He’s not a roommate,” Daisy said. “He’s a dog. Roommates don’t shed or, ideally, poop in your bathtub.”
Well said! She didn’t adopt this dog, she doesn’t want a dog, and she doesn’t have the lifestyle to take care of a dog, but she feels she has no choice to look after him temporarily. She is, in her own words, not a dog person. And Jack Russells pack a lot of enthusiasm for a non-dog-person to handle.
Protagonist number 3 is named Shar Summer. Yes, really. Her dog is a long-haired dachshund named Wolfie, and the first dog to have a coat color described: grey and black.
Shar is 48, and she’s struggling to get her lover of two years to settle down. She told him she didn’t like living alone, so he took the hint and… bought her a taser. She’s coming to the realization that she lacks passion in her life, and that she’s spent too much of her life working on a book that was started by her grandmother and “almost finished” when she got it. All she has to do is track down the citations and it’ll be ready for publishing — but she can’t figure out where this Kammani Gula goddess came from. And to top it all off, her students are driving her nuts, asking for undeserved extensions or trying to talk their way out of low grades on tests.
Frankly, I’m digging her the most. She’s an older woman, which is nice to see in a book of this nature, and she clearly has a whole life of her own, which the man in her life is only making worse. She wants to get married but not so desperately she’ll settle for any man she comes across, which is refreshing. Oh yeah, and she dumps the boyfriend in chapter 1. Good riddance:
“I was talking about you ending our relationship,” Ray said, stiffly. “But since you’ve made a foolish decision based on a spur-of-the-moment hormonal surge, I’m going to my six o’clock class. We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”
So we’ve begun with three stories of three entirely different women, with three totally separate sets of problems. What links them together is that each one finds this flyer:
BE A GODDESS TO YOUR DOG
The Kummani Gula Dog Obedience Course
This two-week immersion course will teach you to communicate with your dog while commanding complete obedience. Learn the ways of the goddess Kammani Gula, whose sacred animal was the dog, under the tutelage of Noah Wortham, anointed Kammani Gula instructor.
Abby’s new in town and looking for info about her grandmother; Daisy’s got a dog who seriously needs obedience training; and Shar’s looking for Kummani Gula. It’s perfect!