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Until Tuesday: Book Review

May 26, 2011

Until Tuesday:
Luis Carlos Montalván
Hyperion 2011, $22.99 252 pages.

I would have loved this story of the bond between a wounded veteran and his service dog, even without some prior knowledge of the author. I have tremendous respect for the work that soldiers do, and I know that I can only begin to get my head (and my heart) around the impact that serving in battle can have on their bodies and their psyches, years later.

I’m fascinated by working dogs too. Their intelligence, devotion to their person and their task. Yes, I admit that part of me wants to rub their bellies and love them all up, because they are bred to seek love and a close bond as the reward for what they do. I know this is not allowed, and I know it’s unprofessional. Can’t quite stop the wistful smile from crossing my face when I admire a good looking working dog though.

Combine the two into one insightful memoir, thought provoking and emotionally resonant… I would have bought this book, even if Montalván were not a friend of a friend. I think I met him at some point, through my friend Chris Lombardi. She’s just finished a book about soldiers and veterans who speak out against war.

Montalván’s narrative begins with imagining Tuesday as a puppy and a young dog, being trained to be a service dog. It’s touching enough to make you smile, showing Montalván’s bond and respect for Tuesday, without being over the top sentimental. Tuesday’s first trainer was a troubled teen. Then he was part of a Puppies Behind Bars program, before finishing the training he needed to be a service dog, to help Montalván navigate his world as a veteran with brain injuries, crippling anxiety and PTSD.

As the story progresses to Montalván’s army career, and the horrifying things he experienced… Tuesday is almost like a service dog for the reader, keeping you anchored, giving you some sense of hope to focus on against scenes of overwhelming violence. Chris warned me that I might want to cry. But that wasn’t what I felt. Wanted to scream in outrage. And kick things. My heart broke, seeing what soldiers had no choice but to survive.

Montalván’s writing about his war experience, and about the day to day experience of PTSD, treated and untreated, has clarity and thoughtfulness. He makes it clear that PTSD isn’t about hallucinations, but about not letting go of hypervigilance and the hold that memory can have, even when it’s not needed in present day life. He writes with such clarity and self-awareness about the path he has taken, to come to a better sense of peace with himself. And the elemental role Tuesday played, as a companion, as a protector, as a way to stay grounded and present, even though his body and his heart remember the stresses of battle so keenly.

I stayed up until well past midnight reading this, even though I had to be up before dawn the next day to get to the Book Expo early. I didn’t want to leave Luis and Tuesday, even after I turned the last page.

So this isn’t just a goofy-smiling charmer of a boy-and-his-dog story, but a thoughtful reaction to the war, and Montalván’s own battles to reconcile himself with his past experience as he makes a new life for himself, with Tuesday by his side.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2011 7:26 am

    Dogs, soldiers, and psychology? I’m there.

  2. May 30, 2011 9:46 pm

    Great review – when I started to read it, I wasn’t sure it would end that way. As a Navy veteran, contributor to Canine Companions for Independence, and believer in equine therapy, I greatly appreciate your interest in this story. I know I look forward to buying Until Tuesday now! -Valerie

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