By Marika Meeks
Citadel Press – Kensington Publishing, 2019
Via: Publisher Request
Note: We received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Her Grumpiness speaketh:
I had two distinct reactions to this book. It’s the true story of a pit bull puppy left to die on the side of a road in winter and the woman who adopted the dog while recovering from stage three breast cancer.
On the one hand, Incredibull Stella is an uplifting, heartwarming read about the power of love and second chances. Robust and engaging, it’s told with great honesty and empathy.
On the other, it too often reads like an overlong soap opera, careening from one cataclysmic, heart-rending event to the next with nary a dog’s whisker in between. Think Lassie meets As The World Turns.
Even though the author never saw herself as a “dog person,” she decides to take a chance on Stella post-cancer treatment, and the Meekses welcome the pit bull into their home. Thanks to this “incredible dog,” the pressures of work, family, and health diminish. As Marika’s cancer recedes and her health returns, she starts sharing Stella’s story with the world. It includes “advocating for pit bull awareness, explaining the benefits of pet ownership, and supporting shelters and other organizations that save animals’ lives.”
The writing style is light and breezy. Like a “kitchen table” chat with a neighbor over a cup of coffee. But the narrative tries too hard, as if the author is making a beatification bid for her dog. (The position’s already filled, thank you very much. So bark off, Cupcake.)
You may love this book. But it just wasn’t our cuppa.
For example, between cancer, cancer treatments, family friction, non-stop panic/anxiety attacks, fostering other dogs, and a boatload of inner turmoil, there’s just too much drama going on. You never really get a chance to catch your breath. The author crashes from one Crisis du Jour to the next like a ball in a pinball machine. It’s exhausting.
Yes, Saint Stella the Pittie saves her humans over and over and over. Yes, there’s shared love and cuddles and plenty of color and black and white photos of Stella and the fam looking all smiley and ebullient. And yes, Stella is a social media rock star. The book ends on a high note. Stella earns a Loyal Companion award. Marika launches a new career, learns to dance, laugh, reach out and leave her comfort zone thanks to Stella. It just takes forever to get there. (We won’t be rating this book for reasons Kimber will explain shortly. So kindly keep your fur on, Toots.)
So there’s no doubt Stella is a wonderful dog. (Not as wonderful as a certain Border Collie mix. But nobody’s perfect.) After awhile, however, I just wanted this book to end. Additionally, Kimber has a story of her own on the subject. Sort of.
Kimber: When I was about a year old, Mom and I were out for a walk. On a public street. Chugging along. Minding our own business. All of a sudden two dogs tore out of a house, racing straight toward us. They had us surrounded faster than you can say “Rin Tin Tin.”
One dog grabbed my shoulder. Mom pushed him off. He came back again. Mom jumped between us. She morphed into Mama Grizzly Mode, yelling and screaming at those dogs to Go away! Go home! Leave us alone! Get. Your. Dogs! (Note: You so don’t want to mess with Mama Grizzly Mom the Raving Lunatic. Ever.)
The owner finally came out of the house. The dogs didn’t pay any attention to her. Another human finally came out and got ahold of those two dogs. It took some doing.
We got away. I wasn’t hurt. But I was scared! Those were the most aggressive dogs I’ve ever seen.
Both were pit bulls.