Ever since her police officer father was killed a few months ago, Grace Abernathy hasn't wanted to do much of anything. She's pulled away from her friends, her grades are plummeting . . . it's a problem. The last thing Grace wants is to be dragged into her older sister Regan's plan to train a shelter dog as a service dog. But Grace has no idea how involved she'll get-especially when a mangy mutt named Rex starts talking to her. Has Grace gone off the deep end? Or might this dog be something really special-an angel? A spirit? Either way, he is exactly the therapy that Grace needs.
This combination grief novel, mystery, and talking dog story grew out of an idea frequent collaborators Reisfeld and Gilmour (the Twitches series) were developing before Gilmour's death in 2009. The tale bridges the real and the fanciful as 13-year-old Grace tries to make sense of the shooting death of her detective father. Grace is also grappling with guilt that her father was caught in the crossfire because he left work early to attend her softball tryouts. When her self-absorbed older sister offers to train Rex, a rambunctious shelter puppy, as a service dog, Grace ends up stepping in to do the work. She's amazed and alarmed when Rex talks to her ("Dogs don't talk. Only crazy people think they do"), but his wise, often funny comments help her heal and provide a reassuring echo of her father's voice. Grace's search for the truth about the shooting gives the novel an edge; her discovery assuages her guilt and brings her a bittersweet peace. Even with a talking dog, Reisfeld's novel is moored by believable characters, dialogue, and emotions. Ages 10 14.