The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances (Hardcover)

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August 2014 Indie Next List

“In Cooney's latest, a broken young woman and a sanctuary for broken dogs struggle toward common ground and, in the process, heal one another. Evie is a bright young woman, but often defeated by her demons. Surfing the web one night she spots a school for dog trainers and impetuously enrolls. Determined and inventive, Evie perseveres, learning to love and rehabilitate her tormented canine charges. Cooney's writing style is completely her own, lively, inventive, and fun to read. Do not miss this remarkable novel!”
— Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR


The Sanctuary. High up on the mountain, the Sanctuary is a place of refuge. It is a place where humans save dogs, who, in turn, save the humans. It is a place where the past does not exist, where hopelessness is chased away, where the future hasn’t been written, where orphans and strays can begin to imagine a new meaning for “family.”

Evie is making her way to the Sanctuary. She has lied to gain entry. She has pretended to know more than she does about dogs, but she is learning fast. Once the indomitable Mrs. Auberchon lets her pass, she will find her way. Like the racing greyhound who refuses to move, the golden retriever who returns to his job as the Sanctuary’s butler every time he’s adopted, and the Rottweiler who’s a hopeless candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie comes from a troubled past. But as they all learn, no one should stay prisoner to a life she didn’t choose.

This is the story of two women and a whole pack of dogs who, having lost their way in the world, find a place at a training school—and radical rescue center—called the Sanctuary. It is a story of strays and rescues, kidnappings and homecomings, moving on and holding on and letting go. And it is, ultimately, a moving and hilarious chronicle of the ways in which humans and canines help each other find new lives, new selves, and new hope.

About the Author

ELLEN COONEY is the author of A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies and other novels. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals. She has taught writing at MIT, Harvard, and Boston College, and now lives in Maine with her dogs Andy, Skip, and Maxine—who are each, in their own way, rescues.

Praise For…

"Cooney’s writing style is lively, inventive and fun." --The Columbus Dispatch 

"From the first pages, the tone is warm and welcoming, drawing you in easily...If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is a must-read. It’s a delightful story with layers of meaning that at times may make you cry, both tears of sadness for the abused animals (and people) and also for the happy endings." --The Missourian

"Cooney’s latest novel is both a joyful romp and a thoughtful meditation. The author’s delicate touch with the pain and trauma endured by abused animals and her sensitive portrayal of dedicated rescuers send a powerful message. Love is a great teacher and we are all a little unadoptable. Readers of Garth Stein and Carolyn Parkhurst will adore this title." --Library Journal

"Cooney’s good-natured narrative teaches readers about many different aspects of dog behavior and training alongside Evie, making the book ideal for animal aficionados...Dog lovers rejoice! Cooney has crafted an uncomplicated, feel-good, canine-filled tale of cross-generational friendship, healing, and solidarity." -- Publishers Weekly

"As knowledgeable as she is about the world of dog rescue and rehabilitation, Cooney (Lambrusco) is equally empathic in her treatment of a scarred and scared young woman." --Booklist

"A charming novel about damaged souls looking for a 'forever home.'" --Shelf Awareness, starred review

"Must-read...a moving and joyous romp...All the dogs are wonderfully, fully drawn characters...a brilliantly crafted, uplifting book." -- The Bark

"Is there such a thing as a Rescue Book? Well, there is now. This is a miracle of a book. It's even a spiritual handbook. And it is for readers young and old and all of the in-between. Cooney is such a wise genius of a writer, and her sentences keep surprising you, but are never the point in themselves. I read with a kind of mental breathlessness.  If Cooney needs someone to convince her to write a sequel, I volunteer." -- Gail Godwin, author of Evensong, Unfinished Desires, and many others

“The real genius of this story is in all the things it doesn’t tell you, all the things it assumes you already know—and turns out, you do!—which leaves much more space to be taken up by what really matters: the marvelous canines.  Any dog-lover—any person-lover—will be moved (nearly to the point of slobbering) by this warm, funny, heart-expanding book." -- Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound and Contents May Have Shifted

"The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances is both a joyful romp and a wise, engaging meditation on dogs, love, and recovery from pain. Come. Sit. Read!" – Lily King, author of The Pleasing Hour and Father of the Rain

“A young woman who knows she's lost, and an older woman who doesn't think she is, meet a slew of cast-a-away dogs at a snowy, mountaintop sanctuary, and discover what they didn’t even know they were looking for. A charming novel about overcoming the past and finding meaning and purpose in the present.” – Susan Richards, author of Chosen by a Horse

"This is a jubilant, wise celebration of love, reciprocal between human and canine, in ways profound, moving, and soul saving. Readers will long remember the central humans in this tale—Evie, Mrs. Auberchon, and Giant George—along with the exquisitely drawn cast of rescued dogs who, in their own delightful, mysterious, and silent ways, heal their rescuers wounds. Ellen Cooney has written a funny, joyous, and heartrending book that insists intelligence and kindness must win out over ignorance and cruelty. Exploring the human and canine hearts with equal doses of wisdom and wit, it is surely a book to be read and reread preferably with your dog nestled by your side."—Connie May Fowler, author of Before Women had Wings and When Katie Wakes

"Dog by dog by dog by Evie, the star-crossed protagonist, practically a stray herself, we come to understand that we're all a little bit un-adoptable, a little bit misused, and ready for sure for some loving kindness, the kind that surpasseth understanding, and that only dog can give. Ellen Cooney has written a timeless primer to healing, surviving, transcending, and to a rarified communication that runs both ways and back again. I read this book with a cup of tea in my hand and my dog at my side (Baila, a golden). She wagged when I laughed, growled when I gasped, licked my face when I cried, damn it, woof. These animals know a good book when they sniff one." – Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants and Writing Life Stories

"Dogs were bred by us to serve us in practical ways, but then dogs took it on themselves to serve us most profoundly by healing our broken hearts.  Ellen Cooney understands this, and is the kind of keenly observational writer who can detail the path to healing only dogs can provide.  A delightful read for all of us who can't imagine life without dogs." --W. Bruce Cameron, New York Times Bestselling author of A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey

"What Ellen Cooney captures so brilliantly here is the psychological and emotional similarities between dogs and people -- the way both respond to trauma and pain, and the way love and kindness can heal even the deepest wounds. The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a celebration of the bond that has brought canines and humans together for thousands of years. This book will grab your heart and not let go." -- John Grogan, author of Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

Product Details
ISBN: 9780544236158
ISBN-10: 0544236157
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: August 5th, 2014
Pages: 304
Language: English