Part voyeur, part dreamer, Nina Shepard, a Manhattan dog walker, has been around the block, so to speak, a few times and yearns to find that something -- or someone -- she can be passionate about. She may not have a boyfriend or a real purpose in life, but she does have a job that offers her one great opportunity: the keys to her clients' apartments. And with these keys, Nina has the freedom to cross several foyers -- and a moral boundary -- and gain access to their lives...where she just might find the things that are missing in her own.
Enter Daniel, a man she thinks she knows from snooping far past his doorway when she comes to pick up Sid, his Weimaraner. Except for owning a designer dog (rather than a stray from the pound), he seems perfect in every way. Now if only she could meet him.
For anyone else that might seem simple, but for Nina life is complicated. Claire, her best friend, is an actress who loses every audition due to nervous sweats. Bono, a sullen and sarcastic eight-year-old, is neglected by his U2 groupie mom, one of Nina's clients. Mrs. Chandler, her eccentric neighbor, would rather discuss Barry Bonds than why the IRS is hounding her. And Isaiah, Nina's ex-con dog-walking colleague, champions the rights of pit bulls. And, of course, there are the dogs themselves: Wallis and Edward, the spoiled dachsunds; Che, the stone-deaf beagle; Safire, the bulldog who stares at walls; and Nina's own beloved mutt Sam.
But it is Daniel who holds the key to Nina's heart. One moonlit night on a pier overlooking the Hudson River they are pulled into the treacherous waters of love. What she doesn't know is that Daniel is an imposter, pretending to be what he is not. And by the time she learns who he really is, after mishaps and mistaken identities, deception and lost dogs, it's too late. She's fallen for someone she never would have expected.
The Dog Walker is the hilarious and heartwarming story about one woman's quest for fulfillment. It is about city life -- any city, all cities -- and the struggle to make real connections. It is about allowing oneself to love fully while being fully oneself. And finally, it is about life itself: unpredictable, joyful, and not to be missed.
As Schnur's titular protagonist is well aware, being dragged at the end of a leash is hard work. Readers will find this labored first novel equally tough going, despite its cute premise and full complement of romantic comedy tropes. Nina Shepard's life isn't proceesing quite as planned. After leaving a thankless publishing job, she takes up what she intends to be a temporary dog-walking gig catering to rich and busy New York dog owners, feeling clueless about the direction of her life and even who she is: "When, at the age of thirty-five, you find out you've been wearing the wrong-sized bra for how many years, you realize one thing: you don't know much about anything." Given the keys to her trusting clients' homes, she develops a serious snooping habit. Of particular interest is 32-year-old Daniel Maguire, a hot lawyer, or so she thinks. When she finally meets him, he's not at all what she expected (in fact, he's Daniel's twin brother, Billy), but she falls head over heels anyway. Billy likes her, too, but will they be able to forgive each other's secrets? Former Delacorte editor-in-chief Schnur strives for breeziness but belabors the obvious ("then she chewed a nourishing breakfast"), and the twins plot device is creaky and superfluous. The dog-walking conceit will appeal to dog owners and city dwellers, but the novel lacks bite.