Following Atticus – A man, a dog and a call to nature
Today I am doing a review of the book, Following Atticus. It is a book my friend Edie Jarolim, first reviewed on her blog, Will My Dog Hate Me? I had always intended to read it, but as is often the case, life got in the way. That’s why I was so very happy when I was offered the chance to review this book on my own blog. I received a copy of Following Atticus as part of the review request, but I will be sharing it with friends and family as soon as I can. I loved it. I hope you will check it out.
I think I fell in love with Tom Ryan and his dog, Atticus M. Finch, from the first moment I opened their book, Following Atticus. It’s pretty hard not to fall in love with a book that speaks to your soul in so many different ways.
I should have known I would love it when I read in the prologue - “I have come to judge a good story as one that makes me feel as if I’m losing a friend when I read the final page, close the book, and put it down for the last time.” Indeed. For that is exactly how I felt when I read the last page of Following Atticus.
The story begins in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where Tom Ryan is the sole owner, editor and publisher of his own newspaper, The Undertoad, a paper that follows in the muckraker tradition of truth-telling and investigative journalism. He is knowledgeable, respected, hated, and admired by all in this small town, and as a result he lives a busy and somewhat dangerous life.
Then one day, he agrees to take a dog into his life, Max. Max is an abandoned dog that nobody wants. Tom takes him in and gives him a home. It changes his life. Max becomes his inseparable companion and the town mascot. Sadly, Max is only with him for a year and half before he is gone, but the relationship they shared was to lead to an even greater one.
When Tom meets Atticus Finch he is a tiny little thing. A gray miniature schnauzer puppy with white eyebrows, chest and paws. He is also something else. Unusual. From the beginning, he seems to have a wisdom and understanding that is almost human-like. Maybe it was Tom’s determination to let Atticus be himself, even his name was chosen to give him his own identity, or maybe Atticus was simply born with an independence could not be contained. Either way, he is unique and different and special, and he changes Tom’s life.
He changes it in subtle ways at first - long walks through town to visit its patrons, bike rides together, and weekends spent away from the city in a little cabin in the woods. It is there that Tom and Atticus begin to explore and to discover a new and shared passion – hiking the White mountains of New Hampshire. Soon they are off on adventure that can only be described as transformative. They start on a journey to hike all 48 of the “4000-footers” – the mountains above 4000 feet, and then to hike them twice in one winter season. All along the way is Atticus, the “Little Buddha,” guiding Tom on his journey, battling the elements right alongside Tom. He is smart, wise and inspiring.
Reading about Atticus’ meditative moments atop each mountaintop made me feel a sense of longing. I wanted to feel his sense of peace, his connectedness to his environment. I wanted to feel Tom’s sense of awe and wonder at every mountain peak. his jubilation at each goal met. I wanted to feel his sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. But more than that, I wanted to feel what he and Atticus so clearly felt with each hike – a communion with each other and with the natural world around them. There is something that happens to the soul when you connect with nature. Tom described it as such, “It’s the natural world that heals the soul.” I believe that wholeheartedly.
Many might describe Following Atticus as just a story about a man and his little dog, but it is so much more than that. It is the story of reawakening and the healing of one man’s soul. It is also the story of renewal and transformation. At it’s core, it is a reminder of who we are when we are one with nature. I have no doubt this book will inspire many to take to the mountains, the woods and the forests. In the words of John Muir (quoted often by Tom Ryan)…
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” [John Muir (1838 - 1914), Our National Parks, 1901]
Following Atticus certainly did that for me.
You can learn more about Tom and Atticus:
On their blog – The Adventures of Tom & Atticus
On their Facebook page – Following Atticus.