Archive for August, 2005

Back in the saddle

Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

Oh, my, where did August go? My last entry in this blog was Aug. 2, and here we are at the end of the month already. No, I didn’t fall off the earth. But I did go off the grid for a couple weeks to escape to Michigan with my family. I grew up in Michigan, outside Detroit, and my first newspaper job was in a small harbor town on Lake Michigan, where I met my wife, Jenny. (You can read about it in my autobiographical sketch at We have lots of good memories there, and besides the Great Lakes totally rock. So on August 6, my wife and I packed the minivan to the gills, loaded in the kids, wedged in Gracie, our 14-month-old Labrador retriever, managed to get the doors slammed, and off we went for the 10 hour drive.
The first few days we stayed at my childhood home, which is now filled with an evocative mix of good memories and sad reminders. A year ago when we visited, my father and mother greeted us at the door. This year was much different. My father died over the Christmas holiday. He had been my mother’s sole caregiver, and Mom, who suffers from mid-stage Alzheimers disease, went into a nursing home shortly after. There was really no other option. During our visit, we stayed in the house, visited my father’s grave in Ann Arbor, and spent our days with my mother in the nursing home. One morning, I went alone to the nursing home to visit her while my kids and Jenny stayed behind to swim. I found my mother in the chapel, attending Mass, and sound asleep. It was one of those visits that forces a son to come to grips with the difficult passage families make. I wrote a column about the experience, and it ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday 29:
The real “vacation” part of the trip came when we descended on our good friends Pete and Maureen Kelly for a week with them at their beach cottage on Lake Huron. The weather was classic crisp Great Lakes; the winds were perfect for sailing; the shade ideal for reading. I polished off Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers, which I thought was great, great, great. I was on a panel discussion with Rob in Chicago in June and I found him to be a very engaging speaker. He’s an even better writer and storyteller. I’ve been recommending it to anyone who asks for a good read. This is meticulously researched and reported non-fiction that reads like a novel.
We finished our vacation with a couple nights in a quaint hotel on the harbor in South Haven, across the state on Lake Michigan, where we visited friends and strolled among the sailboats and out to the lighthouse. Then it was back for one last day visiting my mother, and then back to Pennsylvania. And work. And bills. And chores. And reality. Sigh. But we were all glad to be home, especially Gracie the Dog who celebrated by chasing the chickens around the yard (we have four, and I tell their story in Marley & Me), throwing them into a panic that has disrupted their egg laying ever since. They’re sensitive little things.

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Tuesday, August 30th, 2005

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Publisher’s Weekly review

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

On Monday, August 1, Publisher’s Weekly released its review of Marley & Me. I’m posting it here in its entirity:

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog
Grogan, John (Author)
ISBN: 0060817089
William Morrow & Company
Published 2005-11; Hardcover, $21.95 (288p)

“Labrador retrievers are generally considered even-tempered, calm and reliable–and then there’s Marley, the subject of this delightful tribute to one Lab who doesn’t fit the mold. Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer , and his wife, Jenny, were newly married and living in West Palm Beach when they decided that owning a dog would give them a foretaste of the parenthood they anticipated. Marley was a sweet, affectionate puppy who grew into a lovably naughty, hyperactive dog. With a light touch, the author details how Marley was kicked out of obedience school after humiliating his instructor (whom Grogan calls Miss Dominatrix) and swallowed an 18-karat solid gold necklace (Grogan describes his gross but hilarious “recovery operation”). With the arrival of children in the family, Marley became so incorrigible that Jenny, stressed out by a new baby, ordered her husband to get rid of him; she eventually recovered her equilibrium and relented. Grogan’s chronicle of the adventures parents and children (eventually three) enjoyed with the overly energetic but endearing dog is delivered with great humor. Dog lovers will love this account of Grogan’s much loved canine. Agent, Laurie Abkemeier. (On sale Oct. 25)”

Two cool e-mails

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2005

I received two great emails today from people who read advanced galleys of Marley & Me. Of course, I just have to share them:

Mr. Grogan,
Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed Marley & Me. I work in the publishing biz and picked up an advance copy at the BookExpo show. We owned a yellow lab for eleven great years and experienced many of the same experiences: the garbage pail raiding, the natural disaster-esque gusto, the irrational fear of thunder. Reading your book brought back some nice memories.
Incidentally, I read it while on vacation in West Palm Beach and saw quite a few Bocahontas types around the area!
Best of luck with the book. I’ve since passed my copy onto my mother and then mother-in-law, both of whom enjoyed it. I think you have a hit on your hands.
Andrew F.

New York

Thanks, Andrew. I sure hope you’re right — or even half right. And watch out for those Bocahontas Babes in South Florida….they’re everywhere!

And here’s the second letter:

Dear John,
I just finished Marley & Me at midnight last night. I loved your book! I laughed out loud, I cried, I shared parts of your book with my family – it was wonderful. I attended ALA in Chicago in June and sat in the session about first time authors where you and others spoke. You are a gifted writer.
Ten days ago we had to put our beloved Cody, a 14-year-old chocolate lab to sleep. Cody was the sweetest and smartest dog I ever knew. His last two years were a struggle, just as Marley’s were. I could relate so well to Marley’s weakened condition. Cody’s stomach torqued when he was 12, just as Marley’s, and we had the same hard, quick decision to make as you did. We decided to go through with the surgery, and it WAS $2,000.00. Somehow he pulled through and even though it was a long, slow recovery he lived another 2 years.
Best of luck with your book! It was a treat to read!
Celia B.,

Columbus, Ohio

Celia, I’m sorry to hear about Cody. I know how hard it is. In our heads we keep telling ourselves “they’re just pets,” but in our hearts we know that doesn’t begin to tell the half of it. You have my sincere condolences.