The New Yorkers, Cathleen Schine’s novel about life, love and death of the humans and dogs on one New York block, is a gentle reminder of how dogs are oftentimes the best parts of our lives.
Schine’s characters drift through their lives with little or no passion, except for their relationships with the dogs in their lives. We first meet the middle-age Jody who lives a comfortable life as a music teacher. Her life is given vibrance and beauty through a ghost-white pit bull named Beatrice. Beatrice is the shining light that brightens the entire city block.
The other characters, some older and some younger than Jody, are just as passionless and, quite honestly, uninteresting as individuals except for when they connect with one of more of the dogs who populate this book and this city block. When the the directionless bartender discovers how much he connects with one dog in particular he finds his life’s work and love. When the divorced older man realizes he loves a neighbor dog, he also realizes his doesn’t mind a little dog hair on his expensive furniture or in his lonely apartment.
The New Yorkers is at its best when the dogs are center stage. Schine’s love of them embues the assortment of canines with an attractive believability. The humans are true-to-life but not the kind of people I want to spend time with while the dogs are full of life and energy. The humans only seem to come alive when in the presence of a dog.
But that is the point of The New Yorkers. Schine’s novel makes it clear in no uncertain terms, that dogs draws humans together, giving them reason and teaching them how to see the colors of life. Not a bad lesson from a very moving novel.