I Thought You Were Dead

I Thought You Were Dead

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For Paul Gustavson, a hack writer for the wildly popular For Morons series, life is a succession of obstacles. His wife has left him, his father has suffered a debilitating stroke, his girlfriend is dating another man, he has impotency issues, and his overachieving brother invested his parents' money in stocks that tanked. Still, Paul has his friends at Bay State bar, a steady line of cocktails, and a new pair of running shoes (he's promised himself to get in shape). And then there's Stella, the one constant in his life, who gives him sage advice, doesn't judge him, and gives him unconditional love. However, Stella won't accompany Paul into his favorite dive bar. "I'll roll on dead carp, I'll even eat cat turds, but that place grosses me out." Stella, you see, is Paul's aging Lab-shepherd mix, and she knows Paul better than he knows himself.

In I Thought You Were Dead, author Pete Nelson delivers a novel that is all at once heartwarming, heartbreaking, and heart-wrenchingly funny. Most of all, it's a story that proves that when a good dog is by your side-especially one with whom you can have an engaging conversation-life can be full of surprises.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781615730902
Publisher: HighBridge Company
Publication date: 04/13/2010
Edition description: Unabridged; 7.5 hours on 6 CDs
Pages: 7
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Pete Nelson won the Christopher Award for Left for Dead, which is bestowed upon a book that affirms the highest value of the human spirit. He is also the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction and has written many articles for magazines.

Read an Excerpt

I Thought You Were Dead

A Love Story A NOVEL
By Pete Nelson

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Copyright © 2010 Pete Nelson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-56512-597-1

Chapter One

Two of Them Going Nowhere

In the winter of 1998, at the close of the twentieth century, in a small college town on the Connecticut River, on the sidewalk outside a house close enough to the railroad tracks that the pictures on the walls were in constant need of straightening, not that anybody ever straightened them, Paul Gustavson, having had a bit too much to drink, took the glove off his right hand, wedged it into his left armpit, and fumbled in his pants pocket for his house keys.

The snow was coming down hard, which meant the plows would be rumbling all night, clearing the roads. It was early March. Paul would have to shovel in the morning, a favor he did for his landlady, who lived upstairs and hadn't raised the rent in years in part because of the kindnesses he'd done her. His go-getter neighbor would already have finished snow-blowing his own drive, salting it, sanding it, probably drying it with a hair dryer before Paul got out of bed. Paul didn't mind shoveling, even though he'd shoveled enough snow as a kid, growing up in Minneapolis, to last a lifetime. He had to be at the airport by noon to catch his flight back to the Twin Cities, a flight that might not have been necessary had he been more on the ball. Some days were better than others.

"I'm home," Paul said, letting himself in and closing the door to keep out the cold.

"I thought you were dead," the dog said. Her name was Stella, and she was a mixed breed, half German shepherd and half yellow Labrador, but favoring the latter in appearance. Fortunately, she'd also gotten her personality from the Labrador side of the family, taking from the Germans only a certain congenital neatness and a strong sense of protectiveness, though since she was the omega dog in her litter, it only meant she frequently felt put-upon.

"Once again, I'm not dead."

"Joy unbounded," she said dryly. Stella had no sense of permanence and therefore assumed Paul was dead whenever he was out of sight, hearing, or smell. "How was your night?"

"I went to the Bay State and heard the blues," Paul said. His head swam as he bent over to scratch her behind the ear, jingling her collar.

"Do you realize you're only slightly less routinized than a cat?"

"No need to insult. Do you want to go for a walk or what?" "A walk? Yes. I think a walk would be nice. Is it cold out? I don't want to go if the weather's bad."

"There's no such thing as bad weather," he told her. "Just bad clothes."

She could still walk to the door, though sometimes Paul had to lift up her hind end to help her get off her dog bed. Usually he took the dog with him wherever he went, but tonight he'd left her home because of the weather. They lived in an apartment on the ground floor of a double-decker between the railroad tracks and the cemetery in Northampton, a small college town in western Massachusetts.

Stella paused on the front porch, gazing apprehensively at the snow, then took a cautious step forward.

"Hold it," Paul said, picking her up and carrying her down the three concrete steps to the sidewalk. He'd built a ramp for her to walk up, made from an old door with carpet squares nailed to it, but walking down the ramp was difficult for her. He set her down gently. She walked ahead of him, sniffing at the Sliwoskis' bushes, and at the house next door to that, and in all the places where she'd stopped and sniffed every night for the seven years they'd lived there. She stumbled occasionally.

That made two of them.

Paul inhaled deeply through his nostrils. He felt snowflakes on his face. The neighbors across the street still had their Christmas lights up. The neighbors next to them were watching television. At the corner house, he looked up. The student who lived there, Journal Girl, he called her, was again at her computer, her profile lit blue in the second-floor window. Sometimes she was brushing her hair. She was lovely.

He examined the pavement at his feet beneath the corner streetlamp. The snow was falling in flakes fat enough to cast shadows that, as the flakes fell, converged in the circle of light cast by the sodium bulb overhead. He stood in the exact middle of the convergence and imagined he was absorbing some kind of boreal energy, then stopped himself before anybody saw.

"Did I tell you you're going to be spending a week at Chester's house?" he told the dog.

"No problem," Stella said. "I like Chester."

"What's not to like?"

"Why am I going to Chester's house?"

"I have to fly home. My dad had a stroke."

"What's a stroke?"

"That's when part of your brain dies," Paul said. "Either you get a blood clot that blocks an artery so your brain doesn't get enough blood, or else an artery bursts and you get too much blood. I looked it up."

"And too much blood is bad, but not enough is bad too?"

"I guess," Paul said.

"A conundrum."

"A conundrum," Paul agreed. "An irony." "So part of his brain died?" she asked.

"Something like that," Paul said. They walked.

"What part? How many parts are there?"

"Lots. They don't know how bad it is. I was talking to a guy at the bar who said if they get to you in time, they can limit the damage."

"A guy at the bar said that?"


"Always a good source for reliable medical information," she said. "I'm sorry for you."

"He was shoveling the walk."

"Your dad or the guy at the bar?"

"My dad. So it's my fault. We should have bought him a snowblower. I was supposed to do some research and find out the best one to get, but I hadn't gotten around to it. We were worried about him shoveling. There's a family history of strokes and heart attacks."

Paul scraped a handful of snow off the hood of a car and tried to make a snowball, but the snow wasn't wet enough.

"I'm confused," Stella said, pausing to sniff at the base of a fence post. "If there's a family history, then how is it your fault?"

"He was exerting himself," Paul said. "If we'd bought him the snowblower I was supposed to research, he could have taken it easy."

"Shoulda, woulda, coulda."

"Even though he probably wouldn't have used it. He liked the exercise."

"There you go, then. You can't live your life second-guessing yourself."

"Dogs," Paul said, turning left on Parsons.

"Where to?" Stella asked.

"I need to walk a little bit," Paul said. He was headed toward the cemetery.

"The sign says no dogs," Stella reminded him.

"Let's live dangerously," he said, turning his collar up to keep the snow from falling down his neck. He took a glove off and checked his back pocket to make sure he had plastic Baggies to pick up after his dog. He did. They walked in the street, keeping to the tire tracks. The sound of his feet crunching in the snow reminded him of his teenage years, before he was old enough to drive, the miles and miles he'd walked, in blizzards even, looking for friends, for adventure, for something to do, anything to get out of the house. It pained him now to recall how much he'd once craved being free from his parents. He'd be free of them soon enough, the stones in the cemetery reminded him. Walking among them, it was hard to pretend that wasn't true.

"Beautiful night," Stella said, trying to make things better. "I love how quiet it is when it snows."

"Me too."

"Though it makes it hard to smell things."

"Why is that?"

"Water doesn't evaporate in the cold the way it does in the heat," Stella explained patiently. They'd already had this conversation.

"Know why they put this fence around the cemetery?" Paul asked, reading the names on the grave markers. One of the town's celebrities, Sylvester Graham, was buried here. An orator and health-food advocate, he was widely misidentified as the Father of the Graham Cracker, though he'd only invented the flour the cracker was made from. The other regional celebrity was Emily Dickinson, who'd lived across the river in Amherst. He wondered if they'd ever met, as contemporaries or as ghosts.

"Why's that, Paul?" Stella asked, though she'd heard it a dozen times.

"Because people are just dying to get in."

"That's a good one," Stella said. "Wasn't the road outside the cemetery where Emily Dickinson got pulled over for recluse driving?"

"I've told you that one before?"

"Once or twice," Stella said. In fact, he told it every time he told the cemetery-fence joke, and in the same order. He had other jokes he felt obliged to tell in specific circumstances; whenever he saw a kitchen colander, for example, he would advise the cook, "Be careful not to sing through that - you'll strain your voice." The dog tolerated it. Better than some people, Paul always said.

When they got home, he carried her up the front steps and set her down on the porch. Inside, she took a drink of water in the kitchen, sniffed her food bowl for recent additions, and then went to her bed by the radiator. L.L. Bean, red plaid, down filled, only the finest, she told the other dogs in the neighborhood, though Chester, her boyfriend, swore it was poly fill, but then, he was a golden - in other words, no rocket scientist. She let out a grunt as she lowered her weight to the floor, then appeared satisfied. Paul threw his coat over a chair and sat on the couch.

He took the TV remote control in hand and began at the top, channel 98, surfing down slowly, pausing just long enough at each channel to pass judgment. No, he did not want to invest in real estate, or car polishes, or stain removers, or hair or skin care products endorsed by aging actors and actresses. He could remember back when cable TV was first introduced in the seventies. "People will pay a monthly fee to watch the shows, so there will be no need for commercials - it will be commercial-free television," they'd said.

Paul turned the TV off. And Karen said he had no self-control. She never did like to watch television. He'd known that about her from the start and married her anyway. He had only himself to blame. It was a mistake he wouldn't make again, assuming he'd ever have the opportunity to repeat it.

He was tired and wanted to go to bed. Flying made him anxious, which meant he was going to have a rough night sleeping. He realized only as he locked the back door that he'd forgotten to check messages on his answering machine. There were two.

The first was from Tamsen, the woman he'd been seeing for the past three months, not exactly a true romance, more a strange but mutually satisfying exchange of courtesies, a benevolent closeness that allowed for physical contact, which it made him slightly tumescent merely to recall. Yet to qualify as a true romance, the relationship would have to hold promise for both the near and the distant future, and as far as Paul could tell, the long-term prognosis was poor. "Hi, Paul - it's me. Just calling because I had a terrible day. It's not looking good at WebVan. Everybody around here is freshening their résumés and stealing office supplies, and here's a bad sign - Derek had his favorite pinball machine taken out for 'repairs,' or so he said, but I'll bet you anything he's hiding it somewhere so they don't repossess it when the whole thing goes belly-up. So anyway, I just wanted to talk to you because I miss you and I need to hear the sound of your voice. It's eleven now but you can call me and wake me up if you want. Have a good flight tomorrow if I don't hear from you, and call me when you get to your parents' house. I know it's going to be hard for you but you can do it. I know you can do it. Okay? Your dad's going to be okay. So call me."

She had a sexy voice, slightly smoky and tinged with a Northeast Corridor Boston-Rhode Island-New York accent that made her seem tougher than she really was. It was far too late to return her call.

The second message was from his mother, who always began her messages, "Hi, Paul - it's your mom," as if he wasn't going to recognize her voice.

"Hi, Paul - it's your mom," she said. "It's about eleven o'clock here, and I'm at Mercy Hospital. Your father is still resting comfortably and your sister is here and I'm going back just as soon as I get some coffee. Pastor Rolander was here visiting but he's left too. I think Bits will meet you at the airport, and she has your flight number and all that, so don't worry. I'm looking forward to seeing my little boy. Love you lots. Bye."

It was nice to think there was at least one person left on earth who thought of him as a little boy.

Paul filled a glass with ice and poured himself a scotch, adding an extra splash for good measure, because it had been an extradifficult night, and tomorrow was likely to be worse. He took the drink to bed with him, where he read another paragraph of Anna Karenina. He'd been reading the book about one paragraph a night for the past three years. He heard toenails clicking against the floor. Stella had risen from her dog bed all on her own and had come to join him.

"You want up?" he asked her.


"Promise not to whimper in the middle of the night to be let down?" he asked. "I need my sleep. Chester's owners are going to come get you and take you to their house while I'm gone."

"No whimpering, I promise," she said.

He lifted the dog up onto the bed, where she made a nest for herself at his feet. He tried to read. Levin was convinced that Kitty thought he was an asshole. Paul was inclined to agree with her. He put the book down. He wondered if his father knew the difference anymore between being asleep and being awake, or if he had no words in his head at all and felt trapped, bound and gagged. Maybe the opposite was true and he was engaged in some kind of unbroken prayer and felt entirely at peace. Strokes could occur in any part of the brain, couldn't they? Each stroke was probably unique, immeasurable or unpredictable to some extent. His mother said that before it happened, Paul's father had complained of a headache and his speech had seemed a little slurred, though she hadn't made anything of it at the time. "I saw him shoveling, and then when I didn't see him anymore, I thought he'd gone down the block," Paul's mother had told him on the phone. "Then when I went to look for him, I saw him lying on the sidewalk and I thought at first that he'd slipped on the ice."

When he didn't get up, she'd dialed 911, fearing he'd had a heart attack. The operator told her not to move him because jostling could cause a second heart attack. Paul's mother had covered her husband with blankets where he lay and stayed by his side. They took him in an ambulance to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed a stroke. There they gave him a drug to dissolve the clot, but it would only work, they said, if it was administered in time, before too much damage had been done to the tissues in the brain that were being deprived of blood and therefore oxygen. Maybe the old man simply thought he was dreaming and couldn't wake up. Maybe it was a good dream. Maybe it wasn't.

"What?" Stella asked. "You sighed."

"Just thinking," Paul said. "If you could be a vegetable, what vegetable would you be?"

"Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?"

"There's been some debate. Why would you be a tomato?"

"To get next to all those hamburgers," the dog said.

"But if you were a tomato, you wouldn't want to eat hamburger."

"Of course I would. Why would I change, just because I'm a tomato?"

"You'd want tomato food. This has got to be the stupidest conversation we've ever had," Paul said.

"Actually, this is fairly typical," the dog said.

"You think my dad is going to be okay?" Paul asked.

"Sure. He's a tough old bird, right?"

"He used to go to the park and play pickup hockey with the high school rink rats until he was, like, sixty-five years old."

"The only guy alive who thinks Gordie Howe was a quitter."

"That's right," Paul said. "The only guy alive who thinks Gordie Howe was a quitter."

"Your dad's not a quitter."

"That's got to be in his favor."

"On the other hand," Stella said, "everybody gets old and dies. You know that, don't you?"

"Of course I know that."

"It's supposed to work that way. If it didn't, the whole planet would fill up with decrepit, useless old wrecks everybody else would have to take care of. And that wouldn't be good, would it?"

"No, that wouldn't be good."

"If you ask me, you humans have already artificially extended your life spans to the point where you're seriously screwing up the environment for the rest of us. You're supposed to die at forty or forty-five, tops. You're not supposed to gum up the works by hanging around for an extra thirty or forty years."


Excerpted from I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson Copyright © 2010 by Pete Nelson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Wyn Cooper

“This book will make you laugh, cry, and want a dog you can really talk to. . . .The fact that Pete Nelson can tell such a story without making the narrator’s charming talking dog seem unusual is proof of his power as a writer.”
—Wyn Cooper, poet and author of Postcards from the Interior

Susan Cheever

“A cunning and completely winning novel. . . . You will fall in love.”
—Susan Cheever, author of American Bloomsbury

Mary Helen Stefaniak

“A brilliantly funny, highly original, and heartfelt.”
—Mary Helen Stefaniak, author of The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia

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I Thought You Were Dead 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Wisconsin-reader More than 1 year ago
This book had been recommended to me by a friend who is a dog-lover as well as a bookworm. I have never owned a dog, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What a pleasant, multifaceted story, one that I recommend to anyone who needs reassurance that there are good people in the world, or encouragement to reconsider uncomfortable family dynamics. The protagonist's most trusted friend is his aging dog Stella, but the protagonist eventually finds his own "heroic" place in his family and in his community. I was sorry when the story ended.
lovetoreadAR More than 1 year ago
Wow. This book was such an amazing mix of things and a great surprise. While it opens with an off the wall humor that continues in spots throughout, it also carries into a much deeper place. Personal discovery, family, friendship, love, heartache, loyalty and so much more. I think we've all had a 'Stella' in our lives and reading about she and Paul is so touching. Plus all the things Paul is going through in his life. He's a sweet, kind, funny, yet sometimes morose and confused guy who takes a while making that journey to growth into a more developed person. With his family, his girlfriend, his friends and others commenting along the way, most notably Stella. They just have a really great rapport that made me smile and other times laugh out loud, or tear up. And this leads to some hard twists coming before finally things turning around in his life and with his family. I won't sugar coat, there is a tragedy in here that just nearly killed me, but it does have a happy ending so it's all worth it. The sweetest and most poignant being in the final pages. Give this one a try, you won't be sorry.
mandersj More than 1 year ago
Loveable loser Paul Gustavson is forced to re-evaluate his own life when his father has a debilitating stroke, and Paul is asked to help his father learn to communicate again. "I Thought You Were Dead" features the long-standing relationship between Paul and his golden lab/German shepherd mix, Stella. This relationship seems to be the most successful of Paul's life. He is a divorced work-from-home writer whose strained relationship with his family is OK because he lives so far away from them. Paul is currently dating Tamsen, who is much hotter than Paul, and she is also dating another man. Fifteen-year-old Stella has continence issues and Paul has to life her up and down so she can get around, but her mind is sharp, as shown by the frequent conversations she and Paul have. Stella advises Paul on all areas of his life, and knows him better than any human ever could. She also accompanies Paul to the dive bar where he hangs out daily. When Paul comes home she greets him with, "I thought you were dead," as dogs have no sense of time. When Paul's father suffers a stroke he flies home to be with his family. The stroke is much worse than Paul feared, with his father having no communicative ability. A system is set up where the only way Paul's father can communicate is by pushing a button signifying "yes" or "no" on a computer set up close to his hospital-grade bed in the main level of Paul's parents' house. It is determined that Paul can help his father rehabilitate by being the one who draws his father out via internet conversations. These conversations turn out to be therapeutic for Paul after some rough going early on. Paul's relationship with Tamsen is getting harder for him to deal with, mainly because he fears Tamsen's other boyfriend is going to give her more what she wants than Paul can. He begins drawing away from her, thinking that will eventually make her happier. Then another tragedy strikes. And this one sends Paul into a depression, realizing his life will never be the same. It also forces him to deal with relationships and real-life issues that he has been skirting for a while. This story would be very difficult to read, if not for the consistent humor the author infuses into the book. A truly compelling, realistically flawed main character, offset by a not so realistic but completely lovable talking dog make this a story you don't want to put down.
MrsO More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and after finishing this morning I think I have to savor it for a few days before starting a new read.  It had romance, humor, secrets, tragedy, relationship struggles, and of course the unconditional love of a sweet dog.  I cannot imagine anyone not being touched by this book.  It was amazing, and I will recommend it to everyone, but my copy is a keeper because I know I will read it again one day.  I honestly think it is one of the best books I have read...ever.
BookGeek3368 More than 1 year ago
This was a great read that I really enjoyed and have already recommended to others. The parts that I enjoyed the best were the conversations between the main character, Paul, and his dog, Stella. As I dog owner myself, I often found myself thinking that if my dog could talk, this is exactly the kind of conversation I'd be having with her. Highly recommended.
cowcop More than 1 year ago
This book didn't end the way I thought when I was in the first chapter. It is one of those easy reads and great for a lousy weather day and pretty darn good for any day. I'm not a great reader by any means but this book is one that I really got in to and finished it in record time. It has almost everything: happy, sad, romance, good story, wonderful ending. I'm trying to tell you to read it without giving away any of the story line. I highly recommend it for teens up to us much older folks.
crazybatcow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't normally read such "touchy-feely-finding-oneself" books because usually they are just too sappy. This one is actually surprisingly addictive. I couldn't relate to Paul or his life or his relationships (girlfriend, family, dog) and yet I kept reading because I wanted to see whether or not he grew up, grew a pair, sorted out his life, and had a happy ending.It is extraordinarily believable for a book that has a talking dog as a main character. One might think that this basic premise would make the book silly, but Stella acts/reacts exactly how one would expect a dog to act.It is emotionally heavy and his and his girlfriend's behaviors had me frustrated (in a good way) throughout most of the story. She was just a bit too "holier-than-thou" for my taste. I also have a little dislike for the last 1/5 of the novel which took on an Alcoholics Anonymous flavor which was just a tad convenient and somewhat preachy.
mariah2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received an audio version of this book as part of the LibrayThing¿s early reviewers program, and I am so glad I was chosen to receive a copy of this story. I loved the humorous and serious interactions between the protagonist Paul Gustavson and his wise dog Stella. The author did a great job of making Stella real and likeable, and I became quite attached to her. Her owner, Paul, was a bit frustrating at times while he was fighting his demons, but the business of demon fighting IS usually frustrating. I thought the ending was a little too clean considering what Paul was going though, but it did not ruin the book for me. I truly enjoyed this story, and would recommend reading it. Even though my copy of the audio version frequently skipped, I would also recommend the audio version if you can find one that doesn¿t skip. I would not suggest this book for a family read as one of the issues dealt with is sexual in nature. This is a work of fiction, but you would probably like this book if you enjoyed Merle¿s Door by Ted Karasote.
LiterateHousewife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had intended on hosting The Dog Days of Summer again this year, so when I saw the audiobook copy of I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson offered up in LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program, I requested it. I was excited when I snagged it and it arrived in April. I'd never snagged an audiobook before. As with much else in my life the second half of this year, Dog Days of Summer didn't materialize this summer and this audiobook slipped my mind. I didn't get around to listening to it until September.I Thought You Were Dead begins with the premise that a man and his dog can actually speak to each other. The first time Josh Clark, the book's narrator, speaks in Stella's voice it was slightly awkward. I decided to suspend my disbelief and see where the story took me. I am so glad that I did. It didn't take long for Stella's voice to feel natural and necessary to me. I loved her. Any worries that I might have had that this novel would be too much like The Art of Racing in the Rain were put to bed immediately.Paul's story of his broken marriage, his half-hearted career as a writer of "For Morons" books, his faraway family and ill father, his tenuous relationship with his current girlfriend and his other issues were interesting to me as well. Life doesn't always work out the way it's planned. This novel is about coming to grips with that realization and coming out the other side a stronger person. In that way, Stella's place in Paul's life falls somewhere between conscience and his inner voice. It all worked well for me.I don't often all out cry when reading books. I Thought You Were Dead was the first audiobook to ever bring me to tears - three times in fact. If you love dogs, are entering your middle years, live far away from your family, consider your life a disappointment, or are human, you will find something for yourself in this book. I've never had a pet like Stella, but having such a wonderful dog love you must be one way the universe lets you know just how valuable you are.If you listen to audiobooks, I found Josh Clark to be an engaging narrator.Final ThoughtsThe premise may seem risky at the outset, but if you're anything like me, it will be well worth it.
GaylDasherSmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For anyone who's ever wondered why their dog is so happy to see them.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nicely written novel, that's basically a coming of age story about a fortyish man. Paul is divorced, drinks too much, is unsure about his relationship with the beautiful Tamsin, and has always felt like the odd man out--the disappointing child--in his family. The one bright spot in his life is Stella, his 15-year-old yellow lab. Paul can talk to Stella about anything--and, as long as they are alone, Stella talks back! By turns funny, tragic, and uplifting, Paul and Stella live through many changes within a few months, and the ending, while not surprising, is ultimately satisfying.
icedream on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm still not completely sold on audio books because the narration can play a large part of whether I enjoy a book instead of the just the written story. Thankfully the narration of I Thought You Were Dead was actually well done and this time.The story is of Paul, a guy just floating through life and of his aging dog Stella. The premise is that Paul's father has a stroke that pushes him to make changes in his life and the gimmick is that his dog Stella talks to Paul. That had me hooked to the story and I could have loved the book. However, at a certain part of the story something changes and what was good about the book was lost. I was so depressed that I couldn't enjoy the rest of the story as much as I had been enjoying it. However I'm glad I had the chance to listen to it.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paul Gustafson is a writer, recently divorced and an alcoholic. He is dating a woman who is also dating another man. Paul also has a dog, Stella, with whom he communicates. His relationships with family are strained and most of his friends are other alcoholics.I listened to this book and that may have affected my opinion about it. While the reader tried to change his voice for the different characters, the female voices came off as whiny. During most of the book, Paul carries on whole conversations with his dog, Stella. There is never any explanation for this...the book isn't written as a fantasy or with paranormal aspects, so it's not very believable. While the goal of the book (I think) is to watch Paul fall as low as possible and then grow and change in a positive direction, the character of Paul irritated me. He was whiny and wimpy and I didn't care what happened to him.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Paul is going through a mid-life crisis. He's trying to deal with his recent divorce and his father's even more recent stroke. He relies on his drinking buddies at the local bar to cheer him and make him forget his loneliness. He relies on companionship from his girlfriend, who is in an "open relationship" with him and one other man. And he relies on his ancient dog Stella to help him ruminate over life's issues. He's not the first human to ever talk to their pet, but Stella might just be the first dog who talks back. But only to Paul. She proves to be quite insightful, both in offering rather impartial views of what is going on in Paul's life and in how she innocently questions why humans make the choices they do. This is a quirky tale of letting go and moving on, of figuring out what you want life to be for you, of relationships and communication told in a placid but fresh voice worth listening to.
kqueue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book through the Early Reviewers program and halfway through listening to it, my CD player broke and it took 8 weeks for the car dealer to fix it, so I apologize for the lateness of my review. Paul Gustavson is stuck in neutral. His wife has left him, his father has had a stroke, his girlfriend is dating another man who can give her everything she needs. Paul finds solace in bars and in the bottle and most importantly his wisely naive Golden Retriever, Stella, with whom he discusses everything. She talks back, too, but only to Paul. This book deals mostly with relationships and is long on introspection. The story revolves around Paul and his struggles and relationships. Stella is a supporting character, so if you are looking for a humorous book that features a dog as a main character, this isn't it. Although it wasn't what I expected, I loved this book, and I loved Josh Clark's hushed narration that seemed perfect for such an introspective protagonist. I think the reasons it spoke so strongly to me are that I could identify with some of the things that Paul was dealing with - a parent completely incapacitated by a stroke and an aging, beloved pet.
acook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is deeper than it appear on its surface. On its surface its about a man, Paul, coming to terms with some things going wrong in his life: his dog is old, his father has had a stroke, his career is not exactly booming, he¿s competing with another man for his girlfriend. As he attempts to reconnect with his dad, who cannot speak as a result of the stroke, he realizes what he¿s doing wrong in his own life. An endearing part of the book is that he converses with his dog, Stella, and Stella talks back, giving him guidance. (In fact, Stella finally comes to Paul, and says, ¿Paul, it¿s time.¿ And the ensuing conversation really helped me deal with some decisions regarding my own elderly dog.)By the end of the book, Paul has made great strides, and his life has straightened out dramatically. I was moved by the book, much more so that I thought I would be by how it started out. I imagined the character much like Raymond from ¿Everybody Loves Raymond.¿ That¿s the tone in which the book is written, but there is much more here; I highly recommend it.The title refers to a dog¿s feeling that every time you leave them, you are gone for good, you are ¿dead.¿ When you return, they think, ¿Oh, I thought you were dead.¿I received an audio copy of this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. This was apparently an error on my part, as I don¿t do audio books; they just don¿t fit into my lifestyle, and I avoid requesting audio versions of books. When I inquired about possibly trading with someone, I was fairly nastily reprimanded by someone at LT. So I purchase a copy, read it, and here is my review. I¿m sorry I can¿t speak to the reader on the audio copy. I considered donating it to my local library, but since I acquired via LT, I¿d like to pass it on to another LT member. If someone would care to leave me a message, I¿d be glad to pass it on at my own expense.
pdplish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book on cd's. We started to listento it in the car in a trip to VT that would take 4 1/2 hours. It took forever just to get through the first cd and by the 2nd we were all thouroughly confused and very bored. I don't know if it was the drone of the reader's voice or the conten. Maybe both!
erinclark on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very sweet and winsome novel. Paul and his best friend Stella, who just happens to be a dog, have gone through life together as a little family of sorts. Paul is divorced, lonely and finds comfort at the local bar each night where Stella is allowed to hang out in the doorway. Paul is just passing time, his life is stagnant and he is envious of those who seem to have it all. He writes books for "Morons" for a living, kind of like the self help books for dummies. His self esteem is in the negative double didgits. Out of the blue Paul's father has a disabling stroke and Paul is forced to take a good look at his life and where exactly it is going. Through his relationship with his sometime girlfriend Tamsin, his wonderful dog and teacher Stella and his relationship with the bottle, Paul realizes that he must change if he wants the good life that he perceives others having. He learns slowly but surely with help from some online monosyllable text conversations with his father to step out of loser status by making small changes in attitude and to embrace life in the fullest. This is a bittersweet and delightful story of one man's path to personal wholeness. I received this as an early reviewer audio book from Librarything.com and I can't speak highly enough of the narrator. Stella's voice was a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations Paul and Stella had.Highly recommended, and not just for dog lovers (of which I am!)
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A delightful gem of a book. Paul Gustavson is a hack writer for a book series For Morons. He is divorced, his father has had a bad stroke, the woman he likes is dating another man, and his relationship with his brother is remote. But he has friends at his favorite bar and Stella, his aging dog. Stella listens to him and gives him good counsel. This story is of a middle-aged man seeking to finally grow within himself. And as he looks around, he finds the support he needs.
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Even the ones i was sobbing over, relating to the experience. Beautifully written; well worth the read. Have the klenex close by.
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