Almost Perfect by Diane Manning is a fantastic heartwarming book. It is not just a book about dogs, it is also a book about second chances, friendship, and not giving up your dream.
Bess is a 70 year old who has been breeding and showing poodles for most of her life. There is a long line of champions and many wins in her past, but the one thing she has never achieved is showing one of her dogs at Westminster. She feels she too old to continue breeding and showing her dogs, and she has to live with her biggest regret, not competing at Westminster. Bess has always put her love of dogs above all else, including her son, David.
Benny is a teenager who has always wanted a dog but his father will not let him get one. He is autistic and has trouble managing his emotions, especially his anger. His parents are divorced and he wants his mom to be proud of him and spend time with him. But his mother is not very reliable and most times she is late picking him up or just forgets about him all together.
Benny befriends Bess and this allows him to be able to spend time with her dogs. In his opinion a poodle is not a real dog but the more time he spends with Bess’s dogs, the more he sees how smart poodles are. He decides he wants to start showing dogs in competition and eventually he talks Bess into helping him do this.
Bess and Benny make a very odd pair, but they each learn valuable lessons from each other. Benny learns about responsibility and focusing on one thing and seeing it through. Bess sees the life that she has created for her son, and realizes that, just like Benny, her son David only wanted to be close to her and win her love when he was growing up. I really loved the relationship between the two and how they interacted.
Diane Manning is a very descriptive writer. While I was reading, I felt like I was watching the dog shows in person, hearing, seeing and smelling things as though I was right there. I felt like I was watching the dogs playing, sleeping and competing in the shows and I felt like I knew their personalities. I could feel the emotions of the characters, the sadness and happiness that they felt.
The characters are realistic, well rounded and three dimensional. They had many human characteristics, some good and some bad. I feel she portrayed the aging Bess perfectly and also the teenager Benny. I think that would be hard to do since they are worlds apart in age and experience.
I really enjoyed learning more about show dogs and the competitions they are involved in. I watch the Westminster Dog Show every year and it was nice to read about some of the behind-the-scenes that are involved.
I also liked reading about some of the different aspects of autism and some of the different personality traits that those afflicted deal with. I feel like she gave an accurate portrayal of the problems and difficulties encountered.
I feel like this book will appeal to many different readers. Those who enjoy dogs, those interested in dog shows and competitions. The book will also appeal to those who enjoy a warm, heartfelt book about life. This book would be appropriate for young adult readers also.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank NetGalley and Beltor Publisher for the chance to read this excellent book.