First line: "Adelaide Andrews stared out the living room window and into the yard across the street where an elderly man, who she could only assume was her new neighbor, was frolicking through the sprinkler in his underwear."
Adelaide Andrews hadn't been to Eunice, Arkansas since she was twelve. But when her aunt passes away and leaves Addie her house, she sees a trip to Eunice as a potential cure--or at least a hiding place--from the pain of a recent tragedy. Addie packs up her life in Chicago and moves south. Intending to get the house in order and sell it then return to Chicago, Addie is caught a off-guard when Fate intervenes.
Out on a walk one evening, Addie discovers a moving garbage bag. Inside lay a young, badly injured pit bull. Addie rushes it to the town veterinarian in hopes of saving the poor creature, and mercifully, with treatment and time, Felix recovers and becomes Addie's shadow. Little does Addie know, her new pet is about to lead her into a dark, ugly element of her new community. Felix isn't the only positive outcome of Addie's vet visit, though. She also meets her first friend in Eunice, Wanda, the vet tech.
As Addie gets to know more of Eunice and its citizens, she discovers hiding isn't as easy as she first thought, but this small town has plenty to distract her from the pain she's been carrying around for far too long.
Sit! Stay! Speak! is a quick, heartwarming tale of human-dog bonds, small-towns and the healing power of love. It's also a dark narrative of human evils, a merciless culture too often ignored and the limits of legal protections for animals that perpetuate that culture.
While there are a couple inconsequentially minor blips in the plot, the delightfully robust characters, charming Southern atmosphere and colorful dialogue more than make up for them. Addie's crazy neighbor Augustus Smoot, Wanda's adorable four-year-old son Bryar and many other Eunice residents provide humor and a rich dynamic that rebukes small-town clichés. Wanda's treasure trove of creative family aphorisms, such as "'he's so dumb he couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel'" lend additional authenticity to an already astute local color.
Sit! Stay! Speak! isn't likely to wind up an American classic, but it's a wonderfully entertaining debut that kept me captivated and engaged for a nearly one-sitting read. I'll be keeping my eyes open for more from Annie England Noblin.
Sit! Stay! Speak! is available in paperback from William Morrow (9780062379269).
My review today is part of the TLC book tour for Sit! Stay! Speak!. Check the schedule to see what other bloggers are saying about this charming story.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.