Book Thoughts: You Had Me At Woof by Julie Klam

(This review is written differently than my other recent ones. I had to write a review for my English class and there were certain things that needed to be included. Please give me your feedback on this type of review! I really would like to know if you love it or hate it! Also, this book is nonfiction.)

Julie Klam was thirty, single, and working as a part-time clerk in an insurance company, wondering if she would ever meet the man she could spend the rest of her life with. And then it happened. She met the irresistible Otto, her first in a long line of Boston terriers, and fell instantly in love. 

You Had Me at Woof is the often hilarious and always sincere story of how one woman discovered life’s most important lessons from her relationships with her canine companions. From Otto, Julie realized what it might feel like to find “the one.” She learned to share her home, her heart, and her limited resources with another, and she found an authentic friend in the process. But that was just the beginning.

Over the years her brood has grown to one husband, one daughter, and several Boston terriers. And although she had much to learn about how to care for them-walks at 2 a.m., vet visits, behavior problems-she was surprised and delighted to find that her dogs had more wisdom to convey to her than she had ever dreamed. And caring for them has made her a better person-and completely and utterly opened her heart. Riotously funny and unexpectedly poignant, You Had Me at Woof recounts the hidden surprises, pleasures, and revelations of letting any mutt, beagle, terrier, or bulldog go charging through your world.

If dogs could talk they would tell humans to stop teaching them tricks and instead tell us to learn something from Julie Klam instead.  You Had Me At Woof is a dog story that everyone can relate to, whether or not they have a canine friend. This heartfelt biography of one woman and many dogs will make the reader laugh, cry and appreciate life just that much more.

The narrator, Julie Klam, begins her story by saying that she was “going through a period of fogginess in [her life] and [was] looking for clarity.” It sets the story up for her decision to get a dog, which is the clarity needed. “As it turns out in life, very little ends up being how you think it’s going to be,” Klam writes in the middle of her story full of surprises, failures, heartbreak and love. All can agree that life is unpredictable. Just like Klam’s life would not be the same without that first choice to get a dog, our life would not be the same without the decisions we make.

Klam’s voice is simple and casual, making the book easy to fall into. She writes as if she is talking to a friend (that does not yet know her story), detailing the events and her thoughts as needed. Each word is genuine, evoking emotion, empathy and sympathy from the reader when needed.

Even though Klam’s voice is enjoyable, her pacing is not consistent.  She writes that “there is great value in putting your toe in the water!” The beginning of the novel seems rushed, as if the author was in a hurry to test the waters. Part of the title is “How Dogs Taught Me the Secret of Happiness” and that theme came very quickly. The middle of her story is even while each event is explained in a smooth and steady pace. At the end, the book slows as it comes to a finish like a person getting bored of the water quickly.

Each dog is what brings this story to life. After explaining an event that revolves around an elderly canine, Klam says “we were all happy to know that life could surprise us just when we thought we were done.” In this book, humans are able to understand relationships better and see that life is full of surprises through dogs, showing how dogs really do teach the secrets of happiness.

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