The New Yorkers: A Novel

The New Yorkers: A Novel

by Cathleen Schine

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Overview

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Inspired by her account in The New Yorker of adopting a profoundly troubled dog named Buster, acclaimed author Cathleen Schine's The New Yorkers is a brilliantly funny story of love, longing, and overcoming the shyness that leashes us. On a quiet little block near Central Park, five lonely New Yorkers find one another, compelled to meet by their canine companions. Over the course of four seasons, they emerge from their apartments, in snow, rain, or glorious sunshine to make friends and sometimes fall in love. A love letter to a city full of surprises, The New Yorkers is an enchanting comedy of manners (with dogs!) from one of our most treasured writers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429934442
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 205,999
File size: 613 KB

About the Author

Cathleen Schine is the author of The Love Letter and Rameau's Niece, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review.


Cathleen Schine is the author of They May Not Mean To, But They Do, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. She lives in Los Angeles.

Hometown:

New York, New York, and Venice, California

Date of Birth:

1953

Place of Birth:

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Education:

B.A., Barnard College, 1976

Read an Excerpt


one

"I live here! I live here!"

We’ll begin our story with Jody. She had lived on the block in her studio apartment since college, a luxurious accommodation at the time, certainly when compared to the dorm room she was leaving. After twenty years, the one room no longer struck her as luxurious, but the morning light was still lovely, the stabilized rent remained artificially low, and the large room with its beautiful bay window, high ceiling, and molding in the shape of twisted rope continued to be her home.

In the back of the room there was a step up into a doll-size kitchen, and behind that another step led to the bathroom. Jody had recently painted the apartment herself—a soft yellow color called Nigerian Peony. The moldings and the ceiling, of which she was particularly proud, were white and glossy. Whenever the room glowed in the sunlight from the big bay window, Jody congratulated herself on the serenity of her well-ordered existence, reassured that the weekends spent atop a tall ladder had been worth the effort. She kept the ladder in the linen closet with her expensive and carefully folded sheets. Jody was frugal in general, buying her clothes at reasonably priced chain stores, but sheets were in an entirely different category. Sheets were sacrificial objects offered with fear and humility to the gods of the night. Each night, Jody stretched out beneath the smooth Egyptian cotton not as a sybarite, but as a penitent, a pilgrim, a seeker, and what she sought was sleep.

In the middle of the night on which our story begins, as in the middle of most nights, Jody lay in bed and worried. She was a cheerful person by day, almost to the point of officious-ness, but at night she suffered. The fragments of her busy life loomed above her like ghosts, like the IRS, like mothers-in-law. She stared into the darkness and faced her faults and her omissions. It was a heavy darkness that surrounded her at these times, both hot and close, the breath of recrimination, and, at the same time, vast, icy, and uncaring. She tried counting, of course, and counting backward, as if she were about to undergo an operation and had just been administered the anesthetic. She tried singing, sometimes the tune of a piece she was practicing, sometimes Gilbert and Sullivan songs, a staple of her household growing up, to which she knew all the lyrics. Sometimes she would have the impulse to sing the most melodic bits loud and clear, letting her voice ring out in the dark bedroom. But she would stop herself. Even if no one was beside her, and it was usually the case that no one was beside her, the sound of her voice among the demons of her sleeplessness was jarring and ridiculous.

She would tell people at school the next day that she hadn’t slept a wink. This was one of the few compensations for her insomnia: the other teachers nodded not with sympathy, exactly, but with understanding and, most important, with respect. They, too, had known sleepless nights, but they had eventually come to admit that Jody was the most sleepless of them all. It conveyed upon her a certain status that she had come almost to treasure.

Jody always smiled as she described her battle to fall asleep. Her habitual and sincere modesty fell away and she became positively smug. Perhaps she would have behaved differently if she had looked as sleepless as she was. But Jody’s eyes were clear and bright and no dark circles swelled beneath them. With her short blonde hair, and dressed in crisp ironed blouses and tight-fitting pants, she was pretty in an open, sunny way. She smelled fresh and clean and moved with a soft, invigorated energy. The children loved her, she worked hard, and people were grateful to her. They turned to her when they needed assistance or counsel on the job, and though she was only thirty-nine years old and looked younger, she was referred to affectionately as "Good Old Jody."

Her colleagues respected her and they were friendly to her, but not one of them was her friend. Jody sometimes wondered if this was her fault. But then, who else’s fault could it be? It’s not the mailman’s fault, she would remind herself. It’s not the vice principal’s fault. It’s not even the Republicans’ fault. Wherein, then, did her own fault lie? This was a mystery to Jody, one she pondered at night in bed.

Naturally, she had gotten herself a dog. She originally set out to get a cat, thinking that as she seemed to be moving headlong into eccentric spinsterhood, she should begin collecting some of its accoutrements. But when she arrived at the ASPCA, she saw an elderly dog, an oversize pit bull mix so white it was almost pink, a female, who wagged her tail with such stately pessimism that Jody took the huge beast home. She named the dog Beatrice, though she had sworn not to give her new pet a person’s name, thinking it faddish and particularly pathetic for a childless woman. But the dog seemed to her to deserve a real name. Beatrice was not a youngster. The ASPCA had picked her up wandering the streets of the Bronx. Half starved and covered with ticks, she had obviously survived a harsh and difficult existence. Beatrice was a name with inherent dignity. Jody felt the old dog deserved that.

Fattened up and well groomed now, Beatrice was a noble-looking animal with enigmatic blue eyes that constantly sought out Jody’s with measured determination. She moved slowly, and though she was not playful, she was amiable and particularly loved strangers, throwing her great weight at them in a joyful greeting, unaware, presumably, that such a welcome might not always be, in fact, welcome. She trusted everyone, which was a testament to her gentle nature, as no one until now had ever earned her trust. But Beatrice seemed to be above the failures of the world, and they far beneath her. She had seen a lot, she seemed to be saying, and so nothing surprised her, nothing frightened her, nothing fazed her. She was lucky to be alive, and she seemed to know it.

Jody turned on the light and looked at Beatrice sprawled on the rug beside the bed. She petted the dog’s wide forehead. Beatrice’s head was big and boxy, like a child’s drawing of a dog’s head. She seemed to grin, her mouth and jaw were so wide. Her tongue lolled out like a great pink washcloth. Then Beatrice lifted her square head and licked Jody’s hand. Jody scratched the dog’s ragged ears and thought, I have become an eccentric music teacher with a dog instead of an eccentric music teacher with a cat. I take brisk walks in the rain with my dog by my side instead of curling up by the electric fire with a cup of tea and my cat on my lap. Although maybe, she thought, as Beatrice heaved her pale bulk onto the bed, there’s not all that much difference. And she smiled at her fate. She had gotten Beatrice eight months ago, eight months of blissful, energetic adoration and companionship on both sides. When she was lonely, she would glance at Beatrice. When she needed someone to talk to, she would talk to Beatrice. Jody felt that her life, though hardly complete by customary standards, would do very well.

Then, Jody met Everett and fell in love. This occurred just two days after the sleepless night described above. Jody, after a long week teaching small children to sing in harmony and tap wooden blocks to a 3/4 beat, had set out for a leisurely weekend walk with Beatrice. It was February and the sky was getting lighter each evening, but this particular afternoon it was snowing lightly, and the world was gray. In the park, Beatrice was as excited as a child, pushing her nose along the thin white film on the grass, rolling wildly, her muscular legs kicking the air. Amused and touched, Jody stayed even longer than usual, though it began snowing in earnest and she was wet through by the time they headed home. They waited at a red light at Columbus Avenue in the swirling wind, and it was when the light turned green and they crossed the street that Jody saw Everett. She didn’t know his name. But when he smiled at her through the shroud of snow, she thought she had never seen a man so beautiful in all her life. She turned and watched him go into the corner market. He must live nearby, she thought. He’s gone out to get milk. She would have stayed and waited and followed him home, but for the cold, the shame of it, and the large pit bull pulling on the leash.

I really am a spinster now, she thought—falling in love with an oblivious handsome stranger in the street. And, as if to prove it, she put on the teakettle as soon as she got home.

Everett hadn’t even known it was snowing until he got outside. He pushed open the door and whirling crystals stung his eyes. A bicycle chained to a signpost was topped with pillows of snow, the handlebars, the seat, the curve of the wheels.

Everett was an ordinary-looking man, until he smiled. Then he became handsome, beautiful even, and showy, like a big, fragrant prize-winning rose. He appeared boyish, a sullen boy but boyish nevertheless, with his somewhat round face and regular features. His hair was brown, neither dark nor light, with just the slightest touch of gray. Only when he smiled and became beautiful did people notice, as if for the first time, that his eyes were a radiant blue, that his cheeks bloomed with the pink of a child though he was fifty years old.

He hadn’t smiled much recently. He was feeling down in the dumps, as his mother would have put it. He had worked hard all his life and he continued to work hard, and he was bored. He frightened the young chemists who worked for him, and he was glad, it was a break in his boredom to watch them duck their heads and mumble their findings, their questions, even their names in tremulous confusion. When a fifty-year-old man is bored, he is said to be having a midlife crisis. Everett’s girlfriend, Leslie, had pointed this out to him.

"No," Everett said. "Boredom is simply a failure of imagination."

And as soon as the words came out of his mouth, he realized they were true, that his imagination was failing, and he became not only bored but depressed.

"You need Prozac or something," Leslie said.

But Everett was already taking Prozac.

"Oh," Leslie said. "Well. A trip, then."

"I’m not going anywhere," Everett said. His tone was harsher than he meant it to be. Leslie was just trying to help, after all. But it occurred to him that though he had been dating Leslie for only a month, Leslie was one of the things he was bored with.

"This too shall pass," she said, kissing him on the cheek.

They had been walking down Central Park West. The gray evening had settled around the Museum of Natural History. The blue glow of the planetarium rested easily within the night sky, the bare trees, the nineteenth-century brick. Everett noticed the curious harmony and found it comforting.

"Yes," he’d said.

"Kind of like herpes," Leslie said. "You know? Or shingles."

Everett missed his daughter. The snow would have delighted her when she was a child. Now she would just squint into the wind and try not to slip on her way to the subway, like everybody else. Everett could feel the absence of her little hand in his. Once she left home to go to college, the apartment had become empty, and Everett and his wife, Alison, had looked at each other across their bed as if across a vast, weary wasteland. Their daughter had been baffled and furious when they divorced. She wanted to be able to come home to the home she’d always had. She didn’t understand that she had taken that home away with her, forever.

Everett realized that he had not been a particularly attentive father, and so his desolation came as a surprise. He had enjoyed Emily, certainly, observed her, as if she were one of a colony of ants in a glass-sided ant farm, and gloried in her, too. She was always so busy, had so many projects and worries and schemes and demands. She was so noisy. Now his life was quiet, muffled, like the snowy street.

He stood on the corner waiting for the light to change. When it did, the blur of red becoming a blur of green, a peppy little woman and a giant dog appeared, apparitions in the silver storm. The dog stared at him through its narrow slit eyes. They walked toward each other. The dog was so white its pink skin showed through. It looked like an enormous lab rat. With slit blue eyes. Everett thought how cold the dog must be in the stinging snow. As they passed each other, the pink beast wagged her tail and pushed her face against his thigh, leaving a thin trail of slobber.

"Beatrice!" said the woman.

Everett wondered why dogs liked him. He certainly did not return the sentiment.

"It’s nothing," he said, for the woman seemed truly upset. She was small and wide-eyed, rather pretty in a hurried, breathless sort of way, he thought. He forced himself to put his gloved hand on the dog’s head. "It’s nothing," he said again, and he smiled, first at Beatrice, the dog, then at the woman.

"Oh!" she said. She looked at him intently.

Everett walked on. What was the etiquette for a chance trail of dog slobber in a violent snowstorm? He had done his best.

He pushed through the heavy plastic curtains that protected the oranges and strawberries and apples and tulips from the cold, snowy wind and made his way into the Korean grocery. He didn’t know if they were really Koreans. He supposed the ones who spoke Spanish to each other were not. He bought milk and went home, his shoes wet and white with the new, brief purity of snow. He passed the gay man who ran the corner restaurant struggling along the slippery sidewalk carrying his dogs, one under each arm. He nodded, but the man, whose name was Jimmy, he thought, or something like that, did not seem to notice him, and he felt a little let down.

When he saw the flashing red light glowing and haloed in the winter storm, he stood on the sidewalk and waited as a stretcher was wheeled awkwardly through the drifts and into the back of an ambulance. He congratulated himself on not staring at the figure bundled in blankets, respectful of someone else’s tragedy. But then, in a sudden, irrational panic, he called out, "I live here! I live here!" A policeman took his arm and said, "There’s been an accident. Apartment 4F." Everett thought: 4F. The disgruntled elderly man downstairs. He always carried an umbrella. Everett waited for the elevator. He noticed two cans of Fancy Feast cat food on the console in the lobby. Tenants often displayed things there that they didn’t want but apparently could not bear to throw away. It enraged Everett: Was this the Salvation Army? He lived on the fifth floor but got off on the fourth and stood in front of the door of the man who always carried an umbrella.

"He’s dead," a neighbor said excitedly. She was standing, in orange fuzzy slippers, with other neighbors in their Sunday afternoon disarray, as well as several police officers, outside apartment 4F. "I don’t even know his name," she said. She grabbed Everett’s arm. "He killed himself," she said softly.

"I don’t know his name, either," Everett said after an awkward silence, and he felt guilty, as if that were why the man had killed himself. He imagined the man stretched out in the ambulance, his long face covered, his umbrella beside him.

"What about the dog?" the neighbor in fuzzy slippers was now saying, still clinging to Everett but addressing a policeman. Everett looked with distaste at her footwear, at her generally disheveled outfit of sweatshirt and exercise tights. It occurred to him that he knew none of his neighbors’ names, though he had lived here for two years. He stepped away from her.

"Should we call the ASPCA or something?" this nameless person was asking.

"There’s no dog here," one of the police officers said.

"A little puppy," the woman insisted. "He got it last week."

Why, Everett wondered, would a man get a puppy and then kill himself? And he went home to put away his quart of milk, almost invigorated and considerably less bored than when he had gone out.

The storm raged for twenty-four hours, then settled into a gentle billow of fat, wet flakes, then stopped altogether as the temperature dropped to three degrees. Small dogs ran up the sides of cars buried in drifts to pee triumphantly at the crest of these mountains. Streets were silent and impassable. It was too cold for children and their sleds. At five that evening, Jody took Beatrice to the park. The old dog, in a thick pink cable-knit sweater, bounded through the snow as Jody struggled to keep up. Branches creaked, glassy, coated with ice. The air was still and cold as death, then alive with blasts of bitter, angry wind. The pathways in Central Park had been sprinkled with sand, already ground into the filthy ice. Jody watched each step in order not to slip. She had wrapped a scarf around her head and it covered her nose and mouth. She breathed the heat of her own breath. Her hood blocked her vision, like the blinders on a carriage horse.

She closed her eyes against the stinging cold, then immediately opened them again in order to keep her balance. The streetlights led her through the looming dark. Like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs, she thought, one after the other, yellow pools of light. They stopped at the top of the stairs of the Bethesda Fountain, and she looked down at the frozen lake. The ice lay undisturbed, smooth and dark. I am alone here, Jody thought. She felt a surge of joy. In New York City, in the middle of Manhattan, she was alone. It didn’t seem possible, but no matter which way she turned, she saw nothing but snow and ice and bare trees against the stark, black sky. There was no one else. Not even a squirrel. Jody’s voice was muffled inside of her scarf. Beatrice looked up at her. Jody pulled her scarf away and breathed in the freezing air.

"We are alone," she said again.

Excerpted from The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine.
Copyright 2007 by Cathleen Schine.
Published in First edition, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue,
one "I live here! I live here!",
two "Everything looks different today",
three À Deux,
four "George! Wake up!",
five A Gentleman,
six "The Flowers That Bloom in the Spring",
seven The Chick Magnet,
eight "Do you ever buy flowers?",
nine Heat,
ten This Is Longing,
eleven A Blind Date,
twelve "Someone who would be right for you",
thirteen "No regrets!",
fourteen Was She in Love?,
fifteen "Just for a little while",
sixteen The Happy Couple,
seventeen "It's urgent!",
eighteen "Just my luck",
nineteen "He bites",
twenty "But what I really meant was love",
twenty-one "We have to talk",
twenty-two The Spinster,
twenty-three He Had Come for the Dogs,
twenty-four Thanksgiving,
twenty-five "I don't just mean the dog",
Epilogue,
Preview: Fin and Lady.,

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about The New Yorkers are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach The New Yorkers.

Customer Reviews

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New Yorkers 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first I was not sure if I would like the book,but as I read more I got caught up in these crazy dog loving New Yorkers. It made me feel like I wanted to move to new york and get a dog'which I don't like dogs'.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
People meet and fall in love via their dogs in this book of light fiction. Friends pointed me toward this book after I complained about the hours I¿ve spent this summer with Al Qaeda and fundamental extremists and the poor of sub-Sahara Africa and the test-weary world of disadvantaged New Jersey schools. There is nothing that lingers in your bones after reading this book, nothing that leads you toward writing editorials to the Times. Simple little stories of relationships combined with the steady love of loyal dogs.
shelleyraec on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A simple story of a handful of people and how their lives become entangled. I think a lack of personality from both the characters and the dogs failed to draw me in to the novel. A pleasant read however.
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The last Schine book I read was She Is Me and I was so disappointed it took me a very long time to take this one off the shelf and gave it a try. I am really glad that I decided to give it a whirl.I think it is a charming book - the characters are complex and well drawn. I was surprised by the sheer number of characters that we, as readers, follow - but Schine does a nice job of giving them all sufficient time to have their stories unfold and interweaving the storylines in a believable fashion.The book is illustrated throughout with darling line drawings of dogs. I enjoyed them very much and I thought they added a touch of whimsy that, for me, really affected the tone of the novel in a positive way.Years and years ago, Schine was brought to my attention with her book The Evolution of Jane - I loved it and have sought out her novels ever since. None have measured up for me until this one. My faith is restored!
kath8899 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lovely story of people interacting where they might not have - relationships developing unexpectedly, people supporting each other in the face of challenges, and people changing/growing perhaps because of interaction with other people. Love this author.
2chances on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Meh. I hoped for better things with this book, because I liked the premise: a group of New Yorkers who become a community because of their dogs. Because that happens, you know? If you have a dog, and you walk the dog, you get to know every dang dog in the neighborhood - and their owners. And to have that happen in New York, the city of strangers, seemed like a lovely idea.And yet. The truth is, I just couldn't seem to stay interested in the characters. This was partly because they were not exceptionally likable: Everett is sort of mean and selfish, George is weak, Polly is controlling and annoying. Still, they all have their human moments, and I think I could have gotten past their faults, except that it seemed as if the author herself wasn't all that committed to her characters. She writes about them in a curiously detached fashion, occasionally breaking away from her narration to address the reader directly - a conceit which could be charming, but feels poorly thought out and executed instead.Oh well. I may try another Schine novel, but I will acquire it at the library - no sense in cluttering my shelves with long shots.
picklechic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading The New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine. It had a cute dog pictured on the cover and the blurb on the back sounded like it would be interesting: a story about people living on a single block in NY and their dogs. It was a good idea for a book, however there was not enough to the story to make it entertaining. The story was very meandering, slow, and was very hard to follow with little "point". There were very few likable characters, except for the dogs! I did not like the way the book resolved. The story was dragged out so long it didn't make sense for it to have such a neat, tidy ending. Overall, I was very disappointed and would not recommend this book.
framberg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found this book delightful. Schine does a great job of showing the impact we have on those around us - intentionally or not. The humans in this novel are well-realized, complicated characters, and their relationships with the dogs in their lives shows them at their most human. The gentle pace of the plot felt very real to me - it flows in just the surprising ways that life does. I found the moments of misunderstanding, missed chances, and misinterpretations especially powerful, poignant, and honest.
MarianV on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The "New Yorkers" is a story about a group of people who live in New York City, but it is a story that could take place anywhere . Anywhere, that is, where a group of people who love dogs meet each other, and each other's pets in a neighborhood where pets are welcome and people are friendly. This is the New York I remember from watching "Seinfeld" and the characters - at least the people- remind me of Seinfeld's people. I enjoyed this book as a "comfort read", entertaining, interesting characters, a plot that develops from everyday encounters and, of course, the dogs, each with his/her own personality. The action covers a year, and a bit of romance is involved. At the end, we are treated to an epilogue that ties up all loose ends. Like the TV show that purports to be about "nothing" this book is about a very small slice of life -- "nothing" and at the same time everything.
jjenn1960 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The dogs in this book were more interesting than their owners. The human characters were shallow and sel-absorbed. It was hard for me to believe that they could exit their ennui long enough to find someone to date.
sarita1119 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book but it just didn't seem to keep me captivated. The idea was good, but it needed more character development. I thought it would appeal to me as an animal lover and owner of a dog, but not so much.
alana_leigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Let's face it, we know what the marketing team was thinking here. Let's put an adorable dog on the cover and this book will sell itself. I'm afraid I'll have to agree with most of the reviewers here: there's not much going for this book beyond that dog on the cover. You might find yourself swayed if you're a real dog-lover, but if that's the case, the time you would spend reading this book should simply be spent with an actual dog. I didn't come away with any great selections from the book that I might point to as being unique and delightful, and perhaps that's the worst crime of all -- The New Yorkers is simply not memorable. Alas.
bearette24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a sweet story, simply told, about a group of New Yorkers and how they interact and affect one another: Jody, a cheerful woman in her late 30s who should be played by Meg Ryan in the movie version; Jamie, a charming gay restaurateur; Everett, an aloof but well-meaning bachelor; Simon, a social worker whose heart is in Virginia; Polly, a young woman with an especially commanding voice; and George, Polly's feckless but lovable brother. The book follows these characters' emotional growth and relationships over the course of a year.I enjoyed this book immensely, despite its slow pace. And it didn't really matter, because it's the kind of novel you want to savor. I was sorry when it ended.
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A light read, sometimes difficult to keep the characters sorted, but overall enjoyable.
tipstopten More than 1 year ago
A light, enjoyable, easy read about strangers living on the same block in a small area in NYC who meet mostly through their dogs and interact in interesting ways. I loved it!
Mayosister More than 1 year ago
This was a light, easy book to read, and anyone who loves dogs, romance, and NYC will enjoy it. It was a great vacation book - - you could lose yourselves in the characters and intertwining stories of their lives.
kmm More than 1 year ago
This was my first but definitely not last Cathleen Shine book. Her writing flows so effortlessly just as another favorite author---Maeve Binchy---As one who walks dogs and has made so many acquaintances through our mutual past time, it's simple to relate to many of the characters.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked this up because it talked about a dog named Buster on the back cover (my dog is a Buster). There is no 'Buster' in the book but it is a delightful story of an odd group of people who live in the same New York neighborhood -- it is the story of how their lives intermingle and how sometimes it is the 'dog' that brings out the best in people. If you are a dog owner, you'll truly enjoy this book. I don't fall in love with an author on just one read, but I'm going to read another Cathleen Schine book. She may become one of my favorites.