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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins


By: David Johnson

ISBN: 9781503936881

Publisher: Lake Union

Publication Date: 7/26/2016

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 4 Stars Symphony Nelson has weathered more than her share of hardships—in part thanks to the faithfulness and affection of her adopted puppy, Toby. Her formerly chaotic life seems to be settling down, until a peaceful walk in the woods leads Symphony and Toby to the reclusive cabin of Caleb Showalter, who knows more about her past than he’s telling. When an old friend resurfaces and expresses his affection, Symphony warily longs for love, and it is Toby that nudges her toward pursuing a reconnection. But when violence strikes at the hands of her possessive boyfriend, Symphony’s trust is shattered once again.

Just when Symphony’s faith in humanity seems lost, Toby is injured in the woods, and she has no choice but to reach out to Caleb for help. Together, they face their fears and lost trust head-on. If they can save Toby, they might be able to let go of the past and to believe in the goodness of others—and themselves—once again.

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My Review

A special thank you to Lake Union and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

David Johnson returns following the much loved popular The Tucker Series (highly recommend) with his latest, TOBY - a powerful story of a woman with a painful past who recovers with the help and love of a special dog.

From mental illness, mystery, intrigue, music, and a complex past--makes for a heartwarming gritty Southern family saga.

Symphony Nelson, a young woman who works as a CNA at the McKenzie Retirement Home for the last six years in rural Tennessee, has weathered more than her share of hardships. Not only does she take care of others at work, she returns home at the end of a long day to care for her mother, suffering from mental illness.

She has taken care of Carol since she was ten years old, when her father left them, and rarely expresses any appreciation. Between her mother’s disability and her check, they barely make ends meet.

The only bright spot in her life is her dog, Toby she found twelve years ago on the side of the road after its mother and siblings died. A mixed breed seven week old puppy which has been her solace in her dysfunctional unstable world. Her mom, Carol is crazy and she still thinks her dad is coming home.

She acts like they are still married, and Toby has to hide from her, as her personality changes daily; known to get the knife out whenever she loses touch with reality, putting everyone in danger.

Carol suffers from dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) and it shows up without warning. Symphony has learned that there was no quick fix for her mother’s condition and certainly no medication would restore her mental health. No one had heard from her father in over fifteen years.

Symphony, a recovering alcoholic, she struggles daily to remain sober under stress. The only thing that has kept Symphony from getting a new sponsor is the advice she heard in rehab: “The thing you are trying to avoid in life is often the very thing you need to embrace.”

When they talk about forgiveness, anger, bitterness and resentment---to let it go and forgive so we can keep growing and bringing pleasure to the lives of others. She is unsure of this, battling her demons and needs a miracle.

Toby knows when Symphony goes to the bottle and the dark places. He tries to stay out of her way until her mood improves. She tries to block out her sponsor’s words: “You can cry a river of tears over a mistake, but the only thing that will help is not making the same mistake when you’re in that situation again.”

She misses her granddaddy. Then she stumbles upon a reclusive cabin and a man named, Caleb. He is mysterious and knows about her past. He knows her granddaddy Virgil. What other secrets is holding?

When an old friend resurfaces and expresses his affection, Symphony longs for love, and it is Toby that nudges her toward Kevin, pursuing a reconnection.

But when violence strikes at the hands of her possessive boyfriend, Roger---Symphony’s trust is shattered once again and many more surprises to follow.

Full of emotion, the past and present connect--a dramatic historical fiction twist, domestic suspense, and a hint of romance for a moving southern tale of second chances.

Once again, Johnson uses northwest Tennessee as the setting for his story, as he did in the Tucker series. Taking place in McKenzie this time, featuring references to the Trezevant Bottom, Turnpike Bottom, the Obion River, Hinkledale Road, Webb School, and Carroll Lake.

Even though I enjoyed, it did not quite have the humor of The Tucker Series (as I have mentioned before, Tucker reminds me of Tyler Perry's Madea - love her wit!

As always, Johnson knows how to spin a story from tragedy to triumph, with life’s special moments., when you least expect. Johnson unveils the darkest side of human nature, and rewards with a beautiful tale of love, loss and unexpected gifts.

For fans of The Tucker Series, as well as dog lovers, and fans of David Rosenfelt, Donna Ball, Bette Lee Crosby and Catherine Ryan Hyde.

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About the Author

David Johnson has worked in the helping professions for more than thirty-five years. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a master’s degree in social work and more than a decade of experience as a minister. In addition to the five novels that make up his Tucker series, he has authored several nonfiction books, including Navigating the Passages of Marriage and Real People, Real Problems, and has published numerous articles in national and local media. David also maintains an active blog. When he’s not writing, he is likely to be making music as the conductor of the David Johnson Chorus. Read More

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