Fourteen-year-old Benny Neusner wants only one thing more than a dog: for his neglectful mother to be proud of him. He hasn't given up on impressing his mother, but a dog is out of the question. His father and stepmother will never permit it. They don't understand how lonely he is. He is not a brain like the other kids in his therapeutic school, and nothing he's tried has ever worked out for him. Benny meets Bess Rutledge, a 70-year-old woman who has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as America's top Standard Poodle breeder, she has never entered Westminster, and now she thinks she's too old. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and Breaker, McCreery's handsome, mischievous son. She offers to give Breaker to Benny, but Benny wants a real dog, not a sissy poodle.
Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to gain his mother's attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he is sure she will be proud of him at last. But first he needs to convince the reluctant Bess to come out of retirement, Benny wins Bess over when she recognizes a connection between Benny's relationship with his mother and her own indifferent mothering when her grown son was Benny's age. Benny shows unexpected talent in the show ring as the two unlikely friends, Benny and Bess, race against time to build up Breaker's credentials as a champion. They overcome a variety of challenges in the show ring and at home while teaching each other important lessons about families and forgiveness. Now the only questions left to decide are who will go into the ring at Westminster: McCreery or Breaker? Benny or Bess? In an ending full of surprises, dreams come true in unexpected ways where winning can be losing and losing is almost perfect.
If you could sum up Almost Perfect in three words, what would they be?
Poodles! SlowNot my style
What about Caroline Miller’s performance did you like?
She did a great job in the performance.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The puppy coming back to life.
Any additional comments?
I think the story was lacking in character development and action. The story seemed to move very slow for me. Although this is not my kind of book, it still seemed to be missing something that i couldn't put my finger on. I felt like the ending needed an epilog.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Bess, at seventy-plus years of age, has resigned from life. The kennels where her life's work of breeding and training show dogs have become reminders not of her joys and accomplishments, but of her regrets and failures. So, defiantly, she has them bulldozed and then retreats into a life of isolation and bitterness.
Until Benny, a young teen with mild autism, shows up, and things change. Boy, do they ever! Benny enthusiastically meets head-on his need for love, acceptance, and purpose, which his divorced parents are too busy or uncaring to provide. With great reluctance, Bess joins Benny on his journey to self-worth and, along the way, finds her own.
In Almost Perfect, Diane Manning has brought together these universal themes in a warm, humorous, and at times heartbreaking way. Her characters are fully realized and her choice to have them prepare for the Super Bowl of dog shows, the Westminster, is inspired. It works on every level.
A fine book which will make you laugh out loud, cry, and, more importantly, ponder your own life choices.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This is a story about a young troubled boy in a special school who has a neighbor that breeds poodles.
Benny was outside exploring one day and found an old sign that said Kennels. He went to his neighbors home and discovered a dog there having puppies. Bess the owner was there with a dog her McCreery had studded and was waiting for the puppies to be born. Benny always wanted a dog, but not a dumb old poodle with funny hair cuts. After talking for a bit, Bess and Benny become friends. Bess is a 70 year old woman with a twin named Mona who is staying with her. Benny really wanted McCreery, but that is Bess's dog. Bess has always raised Show Poodles which have always been champion bloodlines.
Now as Bess is getting older and money is getting tighter, Bess decides to end the kennel days. One night a dog thief stole McCreery from Bess's home. Benny looked for McCreery everyday and one day he finds the dog very sick and takes him to Bess. Bess says Benny can have his choice of puppies and train it for the Dog Shows, thinking Benny will tire of the dog as a co-owner and give up.
Benny not only doesn't give up, but becomes a very successful dog trainer. You have to read the book to see what happens. This is such a warm, loving book. Bring Kleenex! Follow along as Benny grows and changes with the dogs. All of Benny's hopes and dreams and how he feels are all part of the tale. The results in this book are truly amazing. Towards the end, it even made me cry! I was so touched. You can feel the love in this story!
The Author, Diane Daniels Manning did a fantastic job writing this story. The narrator Caroline Miller once again delivers a fantastic warm & loving story to us as only she can. With all of Caroline's wonderful voice and accents. Kudos to both ladies for a fabulous job!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What did you like about this audiobook?
At the heart of Almost Perfect there are two people and two dogs. Benny, a fourteen year old boy with special needs, wants a dog more than anything else. His love of dogs leads him to meet Bess Rutledge. Bess has been a top breeder of standard poodles for years, but she is closing her kennel without ever achieving her dream of winning the Westminster Dog Show. There are also two special dogs in this story: Bess's dog McCreery, who is a champion poodle and the sire of Breaker, a mischievous puppy who plays a very important role in this book.
I love books about puppies and dogs, so I knew I would enjoy this read. I certainly did! The details about the dog show world were new (and very interesting!) to me. I have already recommended this book to several dog friends. I'm sure they will enjoy it too.
I found the changing focus back and forth between Bess and her life and Benny and his family and school very interesting. I liked learning about their separate lives because it made their unlikely friendship that much more moving.
The dogs, McCreery and Breaker, stole the show. The author did a great job at capturing their individual personalities. I especially loved watching Breaker's growth from a puppy to a young dog.
I listened to this book in Audible audiobook format. Caroline Miller did a wonderful job with the narration, especially in the separate voices and personalities of Bess and Benny. This book translated very well to audiobook format.
At first I found the character of Benny a bit disconcerting because he seemed so much younger than his 14 years. If I had not been told he was 14, I would have assumed he was a much younger child, perhaps 6 - 8. As the book went on, I got used to him seeming very young for his age and my interest in the story about Benny's love of dogs and friendship with Bess became primary in the read.
The setting of the dog community and dog show world was especially interesting. I enjoy watching the Westminster Dog Show, and especially enjoyed reading this book just before this year's Westminster, February 16 - 17.
I would recommend this book for dog lovers from middle school age to adult. It is a family friendly story with an appealing, heartwarming tone. I kept thinking, as I read, that this would make a very good Hallmark movie. Do you love dogs? Do you enjoy a warm, uplifting story? Then you will really enjoy Almost Perfect.
What did you love best about Almost Perfect?
This is a beautifully written story about relationships, belonging and learning to forgive others. We follow an emotional journey as Benny yearns for the love, support and acknowledgement from his mother, and Bess, a beautiful older woman who is coming to terms with her own journey and realising that things are never going to be the same again. The story is woven with a wonderful mix of supporting characters, Bess's twin sister, her son and Dr Kate the psychologist at Benny's school for special children.
Having been involved in the world of Dog Shows, I enjoyed how the author explained the competitive process and how everything worked. It brought back memories and for those people who were not aware of the inner working of the competitiveness that surrounds minor shows as well as the prestigious Westminster Dog Show.
The characters are very believable and their interaction and development is well written and shows true emotion.I enjoyed this story very much and would recommend it to others who are looking for a story that makes them feel good about life.
This was such a cute & sweet story. I loved how Manning told a story of families coming to know one another on a deeper level amidst the nerves and chaos of dog shows. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that this novel didn`t race to the conclusion, as well as the fact that the conclusion wasn`t the one that I expected. The well-developed plot combined with Manning`s eloquent narrative & descriptions were a treat. Manning takes THE dog show and sets it as the backdrop for a fun, funny, and at times tearful story about being yourself, no matter your age, and encouraging others to do the same. The entire last hour of the audio version had me in tears. They were good tears, but definitely tears none the less. All may not have ended the way the characters had imagined it, but it was the perfect ending for this heartfelt tale.
Manning has definitely developed a very diverse cast for this novel. Not only are the characters genuine, but the interconnectedness of their actions is the heart of this story. She shows the complexities and intricacies of relationships, both dog-human and human-human in such a manner that it not only provides insight into the characters but also captures your heart.
Manning definitely had me wanting to start showing dogs, or to at least go to a dog show, by the end of the novel. The world that she created was so alive, vibrant and inviting that I would have loved to join in. This novel is the perfect fit for anyone who enjoys pets, people, or who is looking to read something about life and being yourself.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Any additional comments?
Audio books are a favorite of mine, this one wasn't long just over 9 hours. My attention was grabbed right away. Though I usually shy away from stories that deal with animals (mostly because of cruelty and sad endings) this one was different. It was realistic and believable with struggles facing most people today. It showed dedication and going after what you want. I loved the ending because it wasn't perfect, but Almost Perfect :)
I promised myself when I started doing reviews that I wouldn't do a scene by scene analysis of the book. I don't like reading them in reviews because they just give too much of the story away. The synopsis is posted above and sometimes even that says too much, but not in this case. There is more to the story here, it's also about friendship, family and discovering yourself.
Benny is an easy character to like, he is well portrayed here, because of his family and social issues it wasn't hard to root for him and feel empathy in his struggles.
Bess isn't without issues herself, as the story slowly unfolds we are given a glimpse into her soul as well. Put these two together along with a litter of puppies and Almost Perfect is created.
Almost Perfect is a heartwarming story that I found gripping and emotional (but not too emotional). The reader of the audio version did a great job bringing this story to life.
Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning is a story that reaches right in to your heart and settles there. Bess is in her 70s and has spent a lifetime showing and breeding championship dogs. She has finally decided to sell everything and retire when her champion stud is stolen. Benny, a neighbor boy, who happens to be mildly autistic, has fallen hard for McCreery, and is very upset when he finds out the dog has been taken.
Bess and Benny form an alliance that at first seems like it won’t work, but it turns out to be an amazing partnership. They both see something in each other that other people don’t see. Working together, they decide to work toward the Westminster Dog Show.
I was interested by this story. I easily became invested in Bess, Benny and McCreery right away and wanted to know where the story would take them. Bess and Benny’s friendship was endearing. It was interesting to learn about the Westminster Dog Show (which takes place February 16-17 this year). It is something that I hadn’t known much about before listening to this book. I liked that both Bess and Benny were flawed in their own ways but didn’t let it limit them from doing what they wanted to do.
The audiobook narration was fair. There were times when I wasn’t totally sure who was speaking. Overall, the narrator did a decent job with telling the story. There were a lot of characters and at times the story felt like it was going back and forth between a few different story lines. I had to re-listen to a few parts to make sure I knew what was going on. The book did hold my attention and it was one that I wanted to see through to the end.
I received a copy of the audiobook for review purposes. This did not influence my opinion.
This is a sweet story about friendship, dreams, and dogs.
Benny is a mildly autistic teen from a dysfunctional family. He becomes friends with his elderly neighbor, Bess, who has given up on her dream to win at Westminster.
A friendship between Benny and Bess blossoms as she helps Benny learn how to be a dog trainer. Benny learns a lot from Bess but she learns a lot from him too. Speaking of relationships, McCreery and Breaker, two champion standard poodles, are a big part of this story and I enjoyed listening about them the most.
The narrator of Almost Perfect did a good job for the most part. I have listened to books in the past that I could tell who was talking by the change in the narrator’s voice but that wasn’t always the case in this book.
Although the book gets a little slow at times, the end at the Westminster Dog show is emotional and exciting. I think dog lovers would like this book, especially those who enjoy watching dog shows.
FYI: the Westminster Dog Show takes place from February 16-17 this year!