Rating: 5 stars
“Must Love Dogs,” the original bestselling book by Claire Cook, is also known to millions as the book that spawned the fabulous movie of the same name starring John Cusak and Diane Lane. Well, the series “Must Love Dogs” is on its fourth book, and Sarah and John Anderson (who is now starting to be known as just “John”) are working on trying to have a baby and moving in together.
Of course, as in all the MLD books, nothing is simple in the Hurlihy household — which includes Sarah’s father and her siblings and their multitude of progeny. Sarah’s got pregnancy on the mind (she worries she’s too old), and because she works in a preschool, there are plenty of youngsters around, a frustrating and lovely situation which Cook plays for a lot of laughs.
One of the reasons Cook’s series has been so popular is the strength of her main character. Sarah Hurlihy combines the best and worst of most women. She has been hurt in the past: Her first husband left her for a younger woman, and after saying for years that he didn’t want children, he is now the father of twins who attend the preschool where Sarah works. Sarah wants love and a family. Her own extended family can be trying at times although she loves them dearly. And Sarah has the requisite insecurities — is she pretty enough, is she smart enough, and the big one — does he love me enough?
Sarah’s problems are multiple, complex, and sometimes achingly realistic. Her father, another great character — Irish to the bone and flirting with women of all ages — is one of those problems. Another is Sarah’s niece. Is she having sex, and if so, is she using protection? Will Sarah be able to sell her house? Is John’s thinking of just renting out his condo a way of having a “fall back” if their relationship doesn’t work out? What happens if they don’t find a house they like?
You’ll want to start this series at the beginning with the original “Must Love Dogs” so you don’t miss a minute in the lives of the characters. Be careful: You might become hooked. Reading about how life goes on for this wacky but marvelously lovable family becomes as addictive as Frango mints.
Claire’s own story is an uplifting one. She began her career as an author at the age of 45, writing her first novel in her minivan. She walked the red carpet at the opening of the “Must Love Dogs” movie at age 50. Now she’s happily writing both fiction and nonfiction (“Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention“) and speaking at conferences about reinventing your life.
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by the author for review purposes.