Book Review: Good Karma

A Novel
Reviewed by Patricia Lutwack-Bloom, May 2020, Updated June 2020
Good Karma By Christina Kelly (Harper Paperbacks)

Sometimes, a book cover is so entrancing that we buy the book just for that. It doesn’t happen often, but it does occur now and then. This happened to me recently. I was so enamored by the cover and title of Good Karma that I immediately bought the book. Then, unknowingly, when I saw the cover two months later, I bought the book again! Oh well—someone is going to get a nice Christmas gift.

Good Karma is a delightful book with a charming story, eccentric but well-developed characters, and not just one but two great dogs: a Boston Terrier named Karma and a harlequin Great Dane named Sequoia. (Can one imagine a better name for a Great Dane?)

The dogs don’t talk or share their thoughts (alas) but the lead characters make up for this omission. The main character is Catherine. She and her husband, Ralph, have moved to a community that seems to be a kind of retirement oasis on an island off the coast of Savannah. Ralph is a golf addict. This addiction is supplemented by his abiding interest in their real estate lady, who is more interested in the husband’s wallet than his “wee willy wonka.”

Catherine, feeling isolated and alone, frequently goes to the dog park. One day, she meets Frank, a widower. As they chat, both of their dogs–Catherine’s Boston terrier, Karma, and Frank’s Great Dane, Sequoia–disappear. Naturally, they have to join forces to find the dogs. Enter one of the most delightful characters in dog-book history, Ms. Ida Blue. Not to spoil the entire plot, but when our Ida calls the widower with news that she has found both dogs, our gentleman arranges for Ida to keep them so that he can continue his search with the lovely Catherine.

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Meanwhile, a side character adds delicious fun when we learn that she breaks into houses, not to burgle, but just to see how others live. Eventually, Catherine joins her in these forays, which culminates in one of the funniest passages in the book. Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention the widower’s deceased wife. She has some “divine” dialogue as well.

The book is a charming antidote for anyone who wants to while away a few hours with a sparkling cast of characters. Great dialogue and fine, snappy writing carry the reader swiftly through the story. The only possible caveat is the author’s choice to reveal some intimate details of the burgeoning physical relationship between Frank and Catherine. For folks who think older people (Frank is 75, Catherine is 65), don’t indulge in this behavior, these scenes might be a bit cringe-worthy. But for the rest of us who are realists, it only adds to the value of a story depicting older people in real-life situations—albeit, pretty funny ones!

Patricia Lutwack Bloom, Ph.D. was a faculty member at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. During this time she received a facility-service dog, to educate medical professionals as to their value. Today she writes and speaks about the difference between pet therapy and service dogs–and how individuals and the community can benefit from both.