TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER: ‘Emily and Einstein’ is a charmer of a novel

Your dog can’t talk. But you know exactly what he wants. One woof means “out.” A different grumble means he wants a treat. A certain look means “scratch my belly.” Sure, he may not carry on a conversation with you, but he communicates just the same and he gets you to do his bidding.
One of you is very well-trained.
Because of that, despite what scientists say, it’s hard not to attribute human qualities to animals that share your home. But you’ll never look at your dog again in the same way, once you’ve read “Emily and Einstein,” the new novel by Linda Francis Lee.
Alexander “Sandy” Portman was going to ask his wife for a divorce.
When he first laid eyes on Emily, he knew he had to have her – and since Sandy got everything he wanted, it was only a matter of time before he cajoled Emily into his arms, daring her to love him. She couldn’t resist.
Alas, that was two years ago and now it just wasn’t working for Sandy. Divorce would break Emily’s heart. Oddly, he didn’t care.
But that was all before he died. It was all before he begged the old man in feathers for a second chance. Before the old man, cruel jokester that he was, gave Sandy a new body he wasn’t happy having.
Saving the scruffy, wire-haired little mutt was all that was important to Emily in the days after Sandy’s accident. Not her shaky job at Caldecote Press, not her wild younger sister, not the fact that Sandy’s mother was being a harridan, nothing else distracted her like taking care of the dog she named Einstein. She had spent money she didn’t have on saving the pooch and though she initially had no intention of adopting him, she was ultimately glad she did.
He was a curmudgeonly little guy, kind of stand-offish, but he surely lived up to his name. Einstein was so smart. He seemed to know everything about Emily and he acted as if he’d lived in her Dakota apartment all his life. Strangest of all, he reminded her so much of Sandy.
Who really resides within the fur of the four-legged one at your feet? You’ll think of plenty of possibilities to ponder when you’re finished reading this adorably smart book. “Emily and Einstein” is one of those novels that captures your imagination and takes it for a ride.
I really enjoyed the way author Linda Francis Lee leads her readers with observations through the eyes of a small, fuzzy, accidentally quadrupedal man, and the way she envisions his spiritual life is just perfect. Lee was so good at creating Einstein, in fact, that you shouldn’t be surprised if your mind is drawn to your own pet and his human-like characteristics: What, exactly, is going on behind those liquid “Pet Me” eyes?
More fun than a squeaky ball, tastier than a bacon-flavored bone, “Emily and Einstein” will charm you quick. If you’re looking for something cute to read, this is the book you want.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.

Terri Schlichenmeyer