This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. They thought I might enjoy it because I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s not a book I might have otherwise picked up, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it.
Based in part on a true story, Alive Day is about blind psychiatrist Brenden McCarthy and his guide dog Nelson, a big-hearted and courageous black Lab. It’s also the story of Antwone Carver, a Marine who is injured in Iraq and is struggling with coming to terms with the physical limitations caused by his injury. McCarthy volunteers his services at a veterans’ hospital, is assigned to Carver and attempts to help the young Marine build a new life. Nelson becomes an important contributor to the therapeutic process by his gentle and comforting presence. This is a story about dealing with tragedy and life’s challenges, and it’s told in a straight-forward and uplifting way. While the solutions to the magnitude of the problems at hand may be a bit oversimplified at times, the overall message of the book is positive and inspirational, and dog lovers will enjoy the passages about Nelson.
The author presents a convincing case of the need for better programs for veterans returning home from the war without being preachy or political. However, I would have liked to have seen the bond between Nelson and McCarthy conveyed in greater depth. While McCarthy’s love for and reliance on Nelson is very apparent, the story doesn’t delve deeply enough into the spiritual aspects of the human animal bond for this reviewer’s taste.
The book is a heartwarming and life-affirming testament to how the exuberant spirit and love of a dog can heal wounded hearts.