Home > Dog Behavior, Fun Stuff, Pet News, Pet Product Reviews, Pet Products > Following Atticus – A man, a dog and a call to nature

Following Atticus – A man, a dog and a call to nature

September 2, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

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 –Β  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.

  1. September 3, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    oh my god I HAVE to read this book!!!

    • September 3, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      Yes, you do. It is fabulous!

      • Mel
        September 3, 2012 at 5:24 PM


    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 5:25 PM

      I highly recommend it. πŸ™‚

    • Scott Pruter
      September 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      Yes you do. It is marvelous!

  2. September 3, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    Great review, Mel. I’m glad it touched you so much. I hope that even in the dog park, you notice things that can bring you some of the joy Tom and Atticus seem to get from their hikes.

    Have you watched the video yet?

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      Thanks Pamela.

      I already do. I love getting there before everyone else does so I can just enjoy the trees, the birds and the play of sunlight on the ground. Is there anything better than to be with your dogs in the solitude of nature? Even on my travels with my sister, my most favorite place is anywhere in nature I can just soak it all in. Crowds ruin it. (Maybe that’s why Niagara Falls was never all that appealing to me.)

  3. September 3, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    Thank you for this refreshing look at Following Atticus. I don’t respond to every review I read about our book, but I believe in addressing those who invest themselves in our story and bring out a unique perspective. Every writer puts down on paper what’s within him (or her) an that’s what is most important. But there’s a gentle thrill that comes when words meet the right set of eyes, as mine have reached yours and you obviously “get” what I was talking about when it comes to what Atti and I shared and, thankfully, continue to share when out in nature. Thank you again for writing a review that is a pleasure to read.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:33 PM

      It is an honor Tom. Your words have a beauty that makes the journey you an Atti shared so accessible to all of us. There is something so satisfying and fulfilling when one experiences nature in such a way. Thank you for taking me, and everyone else, along for the journey.

  4. September 3, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    I read it when it first came out and loved it. And now I’m following your blog too–because obviously you have good taste!

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:28 PM

      LOL! Quite obviously! Thank you Teresa. I have a feeling I am among kindred spirits here.

  5. Barbara ferris
    September 3, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    I’ve read this book twice in six months and was as moved and touched the second time as the first. I was honored to meet Tom and Atticus and continue to follow them.

  6. Bill Teschek
    September 3, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    This book inspired me to get back into hiking the 4000-footers of the White Mountains after a 20-year absence. And if you really feel like you lost a friend when you turned the last page of the book, then look up “Following Atticus” on Facebook and Like their page. They post every day about the things going on in their lives and it is almost always inspiring and heartwarming. He even added a second dog recently, having taken in an old and not-well dog named Will, and, not surprisingly, changed both their lives.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:27 PM

      Thanks Bil. I have already started following Tom, Atticus and Will on his FB page. I love that I can catch up. It’s kind of like getting to read the second volume in realtime. πŸ™‚

  7. September 3, 2012 at 6:15 PM

    I have to read this book!

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:26 PM

      Yes you do! πŸ™‚

  8. Linda Lynch
    September 3, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    I have felt exactly the same about the book. The idea of a man and what a little dog can inspire him to do is and continues to be AMAZING!

  9. Bill Lambert
    September 3, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    I happened upon the book at our local independent book store and, having completed the NH 48 4K’s last year, couldn’t resist buying it. It’s a great read for anyone, but especially for those of us who find comfort in the solitude of a solo hike (or with only a four footed companion) and pleasure in sharing the experience with like-minded folks. I enjoyed the review and am looking forward to meeting Tom and Atticus at the bookstore this week.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:25 PM

      Then I am jealous of you Bill. I would love to meet Tom and Atticus. I hear he will be in MN soon. I hope so!

  10. Carter W Rae
    September 3, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    This is an inspiring, deeply emotional and rewarding story told by a true wordsmith. I have read and re-read this work and enjoy it more each time!!
    i highly recommend it to all who yearn for a truly meaningful and entertaining journey into the relationships that enrich us!! Thank you for your kind review I really enjoyed it.

  11. Cindi Dejnozka
    September 3, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Awesome review. Your kind words are making want to pick up the book and read it again. It was very inspiring and you made me realize how much feeling one with nature that wonderful book brought into my life.

  12. Denyse Carone
    September 3, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    What a wonderful review! Following Atticus has touched my heart on so many levels and I enjoy reading that it touches others too! Now do yourself a favor and get the audio version of the book-you will love hearing it read by Tom himself!

  13. Silvia G. Soos-Kazel
    September 3, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Great review. Truly enjoyed that you understood the interaction of Tom and Atticus with Nature. How Nature became their passion for peace and serenity. Your interpretation will very likely entice and draw readers to seek out the book, Following Attticus!

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:24 PM

      I hope it does Silvia. It’s one of those books that moves you on a deeper level. Thank you for commenting.

  14. Jan Reed
    September 3, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    This is indeed a wonderful book, one that I will re-read many times in the years to come. It has earned a permanent place among my all-time favorites. As you have picked up, it’s about so much more than a man hiking with a dog. I greatly enjoyed your review also.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:23 PM

      Thank you Jan. How kind of you to comment. I will be re-reading it as well. I love how Tom uses the words of so many great writers to bring you into the journey. It’s definitely a favorite of mine now too. πŸ™‚

  15. September 3, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    Wonderful review of a wonderful book, Mel. It’s clear that the book meant as much to you as it does to so many of us who are now following Tom and Atti (and Will) on their journeys together. And as long as you have the book at your side, it can be read over and over; you never “lose” these friends.

  16. Pam Prince
    September 3, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    I love your review of “Following Atticus”. I couldn’t bear to put it down….so I am rereading it! I am getting so much of what you touched upon: the powerful images of nature set the tone for this deep story of love and, as you say, transformation. I am healed by the words that Tom Ryan writes, by the quotes that he uses to describe each chapter…This book is changing my life, especially the forgiveness that Tom feels for his father…I will be sharing this with all of my friends as gifts…the gift that heals is the best gift of all!

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      I will be sharing it too Pam. I agree. You described how I felt as well. I will be re-reading Following Atticus and I am already thinking of what adventures I can take with my 3 dogs. Thank ou for commenting.

  17. Terry
    September 3, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    I’m so pleased with your review. I enjoyed this book over a month ago, and am still reveling in all that it gave to me. It was a complete joy to meet Tom and Atticus at a book signing on Cape Cod last month. As I follow Tom, Atticus, and Will on Facebook daily, I not only get to enjoy their relationship, but I feel their connection to my daily life… not just with my own pet, who happens to be a kitty, but to nature overall. And, Tom’s honesty about his relationship with his dad touched me deeply. Relationships don’t have to be perfect in order to be meaningful and lovely.

  18. Katie Sandberg
    September 3, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful review! I received this book as a birthday present early Aug of this year and couldn’t put it down the minute I opened it! I have since attended a book signing with Tom, Atticus and his newest dog Will and it was such a pleasure meeting them and hearing him speak. You are absolutely right this book does inspire some to take to the mountains, after reading this visiting the White Mountains and hiking a trail is now on my bucket list! πŸ™‚

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:20 PM

      Katie – I am adding it to mine. The pictures are gorgeous and yet I feel they may not even do them justice. I love that Tom and Atticus have inspired so many top take to the mountains. πŸ™‚

  19. September 3, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    Wonderful review of a memorable book! I love that their Facebook page lets you continue to follow both Atticus and Tom, and enjoy so many wonderful photos of the beautiful White Mountains, of which I was not familiar before reading this book, and other adventures!

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:19 PM

      Thank you so very much. I was unfamiliar with the Whites as well, but as I read Tom’s words I couldn’t help but imagine flying there to tackle one or two on a weekend. Wouldn’t that be fun?

  20. September 3, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    Wonderful review of a wonderful book. This book touched something deep within me as well.

  21. September 3, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    This book touched my soul like no other book has. Your review was wonderful and you so got the story.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      Thank you for your comment Lorraine. It touched my soul as well.

  22. Diana
    September 3, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Not only did i read the book, i listened to all eight cd’s and loved that Tom read the story himself. I love this story as much as I love my little schnauzer Sasha.
    PS I’ve sold many copies for Tom.o

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 8:49 PM

      I clearly need to listen to Tom’s CDs. πŸ™‚

  23. Deborah Middleton
    September 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Great review, and I agree 100% There is nothing like being in nature. It is what has healed my soul and renewed me forever. I like Tom and Atticus, prefer it when I’m alone, as I am never lonely there, but only free to soak up more uncluttered beauty that sits with me as I re-enter the “real world.” Sadly, those spaces are more and more rare in nature…to me there is such a huge value on NOT “fixing” nature so everyone can get there. It spoils the true meaning, is not only looking at it but being a part of all of it’s inconveniences, learning to listen to how the earth speaks to us and wants us to be as opposed to the other way around, and how as a result of that we become one with the earth. It is the only way we will in the end respect it, to become one with it as opposed to “taming it.” There are not so many people who actually feel that way, so when you find another soul, be it human or a dog that does, it is life giving.

    • Mel
      September 3, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      Amen Deborah. I could not have said it better myself.

  24. Jeff Pace
    September 3, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    I am an avid reader who will turn 43 on September 10th.
    Without question, “Following Atticus” is one of my favorite books ever!
    i would encourage everyone to read this book!

  25. Karlen Keto
    September 3, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    Yes, I also felt that I was saying good-bye to my best friends when I finished the book. Yes, I cried and got a stomach ache when I came to the end. But, now I am so relieved and content that Tom and Atticus are back in my life on facebook.

  26. Kathy
    September 3, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    I have read it and it is so much more than a “cute dog book”. I couldn’t put it down once I read it.

  27. Donna
    September 4, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    Excellent review that will convince more people to read this amazing book. Tom weaving his family dynamics into the story, made it an enriching reading experience for me. “This is as good as it gets for us” (page 49) has advanced the peace that I cherish in nature into my family relationships. How many of us have escaped into the woods to bring clarity and peace into our lives?

  28. September 4, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I have never read a book that touched my heart as this one did. I have a dog yhat looks a lot like Atti, but he is a cocapoo. aiknow now our conection is a real wonderful thing.

  29. Janice
    September 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Great review! Just love this book too! Tom Ryan is a gifted writer who takes you along his & his best friend Atticus Maxwell Finch amazing journey, one we all aspire to, but only dream of!
    Heartwarming, Inspiring, Motivational, Uplifting, Touching, Adventurous, Humorous & Compassionate. Following Atticus is one amazing book!

  30. Lindsay Barnes
    September 4, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    What a great review. I loved this book and see that you have been inspired by it as well.

  31. Ann Plummer
    September 4, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I have read the book and gone to a book signing in Barrington. Tom Ryan, Atticus, and Will are so much more than what the book tells you about them. I have passed my book around and am waiting to get it back so I can read it again. I live in NH so we take to the mountains to just see the beauty of them. Ann

  32. September 7, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    I’m thrilled to see how much you enjoyed this book! Thanks for being on the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.

    • Mel
      September 7, 2012 at 10:44 PM

      Wow! Thanks Heather. I’ll go check it out!

      I should mention that I am still thinking about Following Atticus. It has had me thinking all week. A bit of a self-revelation for me. His words and story really resonated with me.

  33. Ramona C.
    March 28, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    I thoroughly enjoyed your review. Your thoughts are the same thoughts that I have about the book. I loved it!! We lived in New Hampshire for 4 years so I am very familiar with all the places that Tom Ryan talks about. This is a beautiful book and I will definitely read it again!

    • Mel
      March 29, 2014 at 10:31 PM

      I will too Ramona. Already have once more. It is a wonderful book.

  1. September 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM
  2. September 10, 2012 at 6:06 AM
  3. September 11, 2012 at 7:14 AM
  4. October 30, 2012 at 9:22 PM

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