Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Spotlight & Guest Post: House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

Title: House Broken   
Author: Sonja Yoerg    
Published: January 2015, NAL Trade   

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…

For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.

Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.

Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.

People assume I’m a dog person. After all, my debut novel is titled HOUSE BROKEN and the cover features an adorable chocolate lab. In addition, the main character is a veterinarian and there are six named dogs in the story. It’s a reasonable assumption. But the truth is a bit more complicated.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore dogs (most of them) and cannot imagine my life without them. But I grew up with cats, one at a time, and was never close to a dog, unless you count my Aunt Lilo’s miniature dachshund, Farfel, who visited us occasionally. Our cat sat on him and he’d disappear.

I studied psychology in college and went on to get a Ph.D. in animal behavior. In the course of that career, I was a nursemaid to hyena cubs, a trainer to pigeons and mice, a companion to a blue jay and a matchmaker to dozens of kangaroo rats. I spent two years in the middle of Wales studying Eurasian dippers, a bird that makes its living along small rivers. I knew more about the habits of animals than you’d ever want to know: how they find food, how they communicate, how they socialize, how they find shelter and how they raise their young. But when people found out about my animal behavior background, they mostly wanted to know whether I could fix what was wrong with their dog. Or their husbands.

My husband (who required little training) had grown up with German Shepherds and wanted our daughters to have that experience. “Sure,” I said, not admitting I was actually a little afraid of larger dogs. I know. How could someone who played with spotted hyenas be afraid of a dog? Humans are not rational.

We got our first dog, Cassie, from a shelter. She was billed as a shepherd mix, but in fact had about as much shepherd in her as I do. She was half Rhodesian ridgeback and half pit bull—a pit-back, as we called her. What a gorgeous animal! And what a sweetheart. She’d had two owners in the first seven months of her life, so she had a few issues, but with patience (and a little medication), she got past that. She was gentle with everyone, especially children, and loved to be in the middle of the pile of girls during sleepovers. They would paint her nails and tie ribbons on her tail. In her soul, Cassie was an eight-year-old girl.

So, how did I do with a big dog in my life? I forgot to mention that I chose her. Or, rather, she chose me. At the shelter, my husband was talking to another dog, and I wandered over to her cage. She wasn’t barking like all the others. She came to the front of the cage, an expectant look on her face. “Hey,” I said, squatting down. She sat in front of me and lifted her paw.

Turns out I’m a sucker for good manners. 

Sonja Yoerg’s debut novel, HOUSE BROKEN, will be published by Penguin/NAL on January 6th, 2015. You can find out more about her on her website,  

About the author: Sonja Yoerg grew up in Stowe, Vermont, where she financed her college education by waitressing at the Trapp Family Lodge. She earned her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and published a nonfiction book about animal intelligence, Clever as a Fox (Bloomsbury USA, 2001). Sonja currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, and they are often visited by their two college-aged daughters.  

HOUSE BROKEN is her first novel.

Thank you Sonja for sharing this guest post. I'll be reading and reviewing House Broken in early January...I can't wait to dig into this book. I have to say, the dog on the cover looks an awful lot like my dog, Maddie :)

1 comment

  1. Kristin this book has appealed to me for ages, I think there has been quite an amount of publicity about it. I will very likely be buying it. I look forward to your review of it. That cover is so cute. I don't have a dog like it, but you do and I can see why!


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