Saturday, February 16, 2013

Book Reviews: Katie Up and Down the Hall

I'm in a "New York State of Mind" right now, because I just got a new job promoting Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, a production about gentrification in Harlem that I saw in NYC in May 2011 while doing research for my thesis.

While I would love to tell you all about that, it has nothing to do with dogs. So, instead, I bring you a book review for Katie Up and Down the Hall, a true story about a super-social New York City cocker girl named Katie who knew exactly how to bring people together.

Glenn Plaskin is an entertainment journalist living in Battery Park City, who after years of living alone, finally decides to get a dog. He brings Katie into his life and apartment, and she ends up adopting an elderly couple living next door, connecting Glenn to them as if he were their son.  Later, Glenn meets a single father at a support group, and recommends he move to Battery Park City, and the man and his son are lucky enough to end up on the same floor as Glenn, and Katie forms a strong bond with the man's young son.

Plaskin does an excellent job of describing the lifestyle in Battery Park City--an almost idyllic community located on the Southern tip of Manhattan. It is one of the quieter neighborhoods in NYC, as it is not nearly as easily accessible by subway as other areas, and is located so far Downtown. However, the high rises boast excellent waterfront views of the Hudson, which Plaskin very much enjoys.

Fun Fact: Battery Park City was actually created from the dirt and refuse excavated during construction of the World Trade Center in the 1970's. It is not built on natural land!

Katie and Glenn's lives change dramatically throughout the course of the novel. Toward the beginning, Glenn's journalism career is very successful, and he interviews a host of famous celebrities, most notably, Katharine Hepburn, Katie's namesake. Katie tags along for many of these interviews, and the book details the various celebrities' reactions to her.

Just when you think Katie and Glenn are living the perfect, nearly-celebrity life, fate turns around. I won't spoil what happens, but the story becomes much more focused on the relationships between Katie and all of her owners, especially her relationship with Pearl, the older woman. 9/11 shatters their world, and they continue to persevere due to their strong, family-like relationships. Readers will truly wonder how each individual person could have made it through these trying times without the bonds that Katie created.

At the end of the story, Katie and Pearl deteriorate in health right alongside one another. Katie passes first, and Pearl is devastated. While very sad, it is touching to watch these two endure old age together, bringing them even closer in new ways.

Katie Up and Down the Hall certainly made me cry. It is a beautiful book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. For me, it was especially appealing, as it is written about a Cocker Spaniel, takes place in New York City, and discusses the importance of community. My husband picked out another great book!

The whole "family," only lacking Pearl's husband Arthur, who had already passed away

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