The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances (Paperback)

By Ellen Cooney

Mariner Books, 9780544483934, 304pp.

Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Other Editions of This Title:
MP3 CD (8/19/2014)
Hardcover (8/5/2014)
Hardcover, Large Print (2/25/2015)

List Price: 14.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

August 2014 Indie Next List

“In Cooney's latest, a broken young woman and a sanctuary for broken dogs struggle toward common ground and, in the process, heal one another. Evie is a bright young woman, but often defeated by her demons. Surfing the web one night she spots a school for dog trainers and impetuously enrolls. Determined and inventive, Evie perseveres, learning to love and rehabilitate her tormented canine charges. Cooney's writing style is completely her own, lively, inventive, and fun to read. Do not miss this remarkable novel!”
— Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR
View the List


New and Noteworthy from USA Today
A Best New Book of the Week from People

"This book will grab your heart and not let go."
—John Grogan, author of Marley & Me

“A wise, engaging meditation on dogs, love, and recovery from pain. Come. Sit. Read!” —Lily King, author of Euphoriaand The Pleasing Hour
“If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is a must-read.” —Missourian 

The Sanctuary is a refuge for strays and rescued dogs. Evie has joined a training program there, though she knows almost nothing about animals. Like the greyhound who won’t move, the Rottweiler with attitude problems, or the hound who might be a candidate for search-and-rescue, Evie has a troubled past. But as they all learn, no one should stay prisoner to a life she didn’t choose. Heartfelt and hilarious in turn, this is a deeply moving story of the countless ways in which humans and canines help each other find new lives, new selves, and new hope.
“This is a miracle of a book . . . Cooney is such a wise genius of a writer, and her sentences keep surprising you, but are never the point in themselves. I read with a kind of mental breathlessness.  If Cooney needs someone to convince her to write a sequel, I volunteer.” —Gail Godwin, author of Evensong and Publishing
“A moving and joyous romp . . . All the dogs are wonderfully, fully drawn characters . . . A brilliantly crafted, uplifting book.” —The Bark

About the Author

ELLEN COONEY is the author of A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies and other novels. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals. She has taught writing at MIT, Harvard, and Boston College, and now lives in Maine with her dogs Andy, Skip, and Maxine—who are each, in their own way, rescues.

Praise For The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances

“Must-read . . . A moving and joyous romp . . . All the dogs are wonderfully, fully drawn characters . . . A brilliantly crafted, uplifting book." — The Bark

“What Ellen Cooney captures so brilliantly here is the psychological and emotional similarities between dogs and people — the way both respond to trauma and pain, and the way love and kindness can heal even the deepest wounds. The Mountaintop School for Dogs is a celebration of the bond that has brought canines and humans together for thousands of years. This book will grab your heart and not let go." — John Grogan, author of Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances is both a joyful romp and a wise, engaging meditation on dogs, love, and recovery from pain. Come. Sit. Read!” — Lily King, author of Euphoria and Father of the Rain

“Is there such a thing as a Rescue Book? Well, there is now. This is a miracle of a book. It’s even a spiritual handbook. And it is for readers young and old and all of the in-between. Cooney is such a wise genius of a writer, and her sentences keep surprising you, but are never the point in themselves. I read with a kind of mental breathlessness. If Cooney needs someone to convince her to write a sequel, I volunteer." — Gail Godwin, author of Evensong, Unfinished Desires, and many others

“Dogs were bred by us to serve us in practical ways, but then dogs took it on themselves to serve us most profoundly by healing our broken hearts. Ellen Cooney understands this, and is the kind of keenly observational writer who can detail the path to healing only dogs can provide. A delightful read for all of us who can’t imagine life without dogs.” —W. Bruce Cameron, New York Times best-selling author of A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey

“The real genius of this story is in all the things it doesn’t tell you, all the things it assumes you already know — and turns out, you do! — which leaves much more space to be taken up by what really matters: the marvelous canines. Any dog lover — any person lover — will be moved (nearly to the point of slobbering) by this warm, funny, heart-expanding book.” — Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound and Contents May Have Shifted

“A young woman who knows she’s lost and an older woman who doesn’t think she is meet a slew of cast-away dogs at a snowy, mountaintop sanctuary, and discover what they didn’t even know they were looking for. A charming novel about overcoming the past and finding meaning and purpose in the present.” — Susan Richards, author of Chosen by a Horse

“This is a jubilant, wise celebration of love, reciprocal between human and canine, in ways profound, moving, and soul saving. Readers will long remember the central humans in this tale — Evie, Mrs. Auberchon, and Giant George — along with the exquisitely drawn cast of rescued dogs who, in their own delightful, mysterious, and silent ways, heal their rescuers’ wounds. Ellen Cooney has written a funny, joyous, and heartrending book that insists intelligence and kindness must win out over ignorance and cruelty. Exploring the human and canine hearts with equal doses of wisdom and wit, it is surely a book to be read and reread preferably with your dog nestled by your side.” — Connie May Fowler, author of Before Women Had Wings and When Katie Wakes

“Dog by dog by dog by Evie, the star-crossed protagonist, practically a stray herself, we come to understand that we’re all a little bit unadoptable, a little bit misused, and ready for sure for some loving kindness, the kind that surpasseth understanding, and that only a dog can give. Ellen Cooney has written a timeless primer to healing, surviving, transcending, and to a rarified communication that runs both ways and back again. I read this book with a cup of tea in my hand and my dog at my side (Baila, a golden). She wagged when I laughed, growled when I gasped, licked my face when I cried, damn it, woof. These animals know a good book when they sniff one.” — Bill Roorbach, author of Life Among Giants and Writing Life Stories

“Cooney’s latest novel is both a joyful romp and a thoughtful meditation. The author’s delicate touch with the pain and trauma endured by abused animals and her sensitive portrayal of dedicated rescuers send a powerful message. Love is a great teacher and we are all a little unadoptable. Readers of Garth Stein and Carolyn Parkhurst will adore this title." —Library Journal

“Cooney’s good-natured narrative teaches readers about many different aspects of dog behavior and training alongside Evie, making the book ideal for animal aficionados . . . Dog lovers rejoice! Cooney has crafted an uncomplicated, feel-good, canine-filled tale of cross-generational friendship, healing, and solidarity.” — Publishers Weekly

“As knowledgeable as she is about the world of dog rescue and rehabilitation, Cooney is equally empathic in her treatment of a scarred and scared young woman.” — Booklist

Conversation Starters from

  1. Who is your favorite Sanctuary dog? If you could adopt any one of them, which dog would you be least likely to choose? Would you trust your instincts about imagining a future for the dog with you? Would breed matter? Size? Personality?generic viagra price canada
  2. When we first meet Evie, she’s emerging from the troubled years of her early twenties and wondering what to do with her life. Although finding the Sanctuary’s ad is accidental, did you feel her decision was only impulsive? She explains, “I felt that I stood in the doorway of a crowded, noisy room, picking up the sound of a whisper no one else seemed to hear” (page 3). Have you ever had to make a similar choice about following your instincts, or some sort of “calling,” even though it means entering a great unknown? How much does self-confidence play into this? Courage?generic viagra price canada
  3. Evie makes the case that it’s not a good idea to feel pity for an abused rescued dog. What is the novel saying about the difference between sympathy and empathy? What is it saying about methods of teaching and learning, not only in terms of dogs but for humans as well? What about the distinctions made between “training” and “teaching,” and the function of a teacher’s creativity? How does the early scene with Evie putting the trash can in the pen with Hank show what type of trainer she’ll become?generic viagra price canada
  4. There are no graphic scenes in the novel of violence or cruelty. What is your reaction to the clinical-type notes on the past experiences of the Sanctuary dogs? What about the brief video in which the man involved in dogfighting mourns a dog who was killed in a fight, while saying, “I loved that dog”? Have you ever wished, as Evie does, that you didn’t know what you know about cruelties committed by humans?generic viagra price canada
  5. How much of a role does the setting play in Mountaintop? The mountain itself? The location is never named—do you imagine the mountain in a specific place? How does Evie’s ascent of the mountain reflect elemental themes in literature and human experience? Did you feel a close presence of nature? Does the author use forces of nature to advance and enhance the story? What about the effects of nature on Evie?generic viagra price canada
  6. What does alternating chapters between Evie and Mrs. Auberchon do for the novel? How does it affect the novel’s balance? What is the effect of having Evie in first person and Mrs. Auberchon in third? How effective is the final scene, especially when Mrs. Auberchon reveals her secret?generic viagra price canada
  7. In her one-paragraph application essay touching on the story of the monk and Buddha, Evie scorns the monk’s refusal to speak or write of his vision-experience. Why does she react this way? Do you think she’s right? What is the novel saying about spirituality? What about the insistence on making an effort to communicate, to connect? What is your favorite act of connection between a human and a dog in the novel? Between a human and a human? Between a dog and a dog?generic viagra price canada
  8. How do you feel about the Sanctuary’s involvement with the Network and the issue of kidnapping abused dogs? Did you feel that Evie’s participation in kidnapping the brood hound, Dapple, was of deep significance to her? How successful is Evie at imagining the old life of Shadow, the hound mix who had been living outdoors on a chain before he was kidnapped? What did it feel like when Shadow found his voice?generic viagra price canada
  9. “Alpha” is a significant word in Mountaintop. The subject of domination and submission plays a crucial part in Evie’s learning process, along with teaching (and living) practices based on controlling behavior through use of intimidation, pain, and fear. Does the novel succeed in revealing how the dogs of the Sanctuary don’t only need to recover from harm done to their bodies, but to their spirits, their confidence, their dog-ness? Have you ever witnessed someone being harshly over-controlling of their dog? How does the Sanctuary’s rejection of “alpha-ness” affect you? Can a dog and a human be true companions if a human insists on an alpha dynamic?generic viagra price canada
  10. What is the novel saying about different types of obedience? Do you think Evie successfully manages to describe and understand how obedience is sometimes a positive thing, and sometimes not? Were you surprised that after Evie met Dora the Scottie, she came to feel that sometimes being an alpha is okay? What about the scene at the inn with Tasha, when Evie unwittingly behaves in a dominant manner that’s close to being abusive?generic viagra price canada
  11. What are your reactions to Mrs. Auberchon? Do your early impressions of her change when you discover she’s the Sanctuary Warden, and what that means? What is your favorite scene with her?generic viagra price canada
  12. Mountaintop has many funny moments, either through Evie’s narration or in comic scenes. What would this book be like without those moments of lightness? How necessary were they for your reading of the novel? Did it happen that you were moved to sadness and laughter in moments that came closely together? How did this affect your relationship with the characters?generic viagra price canada
  13. What about Evie’s family? Is she doing the right thing in deciding she wants to be separate and out of touch, at least while she’s in her program? What do you imagine her parents are like? How much of Evie’s pre-Sanctuary life was determined by her parents’ divorce? What about the staffers, whom Evie so misunderstood? They aren’t present in many scenes, but do you feel they’re fully present in the world of the novel?generic viagra price canada
  14. Were you bothered that Giant George/Eric is a character whose past is never known? Do you imagine a past he might have had? What is the novel saying about the relationship of anyone’s past to the future? Do you think Evie is naive or overly optimistic in coming to believe a past of abuse and loneliness can be erased like a virus on a computer? Evie wonders early on if it’s possible to “go to the place inside someone where loneliness is, when the someone was never anything but lonely” (page 90). Does she find an answer to that question?generic viagra price canada
  15. If you imagine yourself going to the Sanctuary, say a few weeks after the end of the novel, what do you think is happening with the pit bulls? With the other dogs? With the humans?generic viagra price canada