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Jenny Willow cover Jenny Willow
by Mike Gaddis

First things first: this book is a novel, not a training manual or a collection of essays or a memoir. But for wingshooters and bird dog lovers it is a very good novel written by someone with an attic full of experience. Gaddis, Senior Editor for Sporting Classics magazine and breeder of his own line of setters, takes the reader through the final years in the life of a man who has lived and breathed hunting longer than most of us have been alive.

This elder sporting statesman, a country man who lives a country life, comes into a setter pup in need of a home and after wrestling with the decision of whether or not a man of his age should start a new dog, decides to give it one more go. The story is braced with the bond between a man and his dog, the symbiosis being what separates this relationship from most others in a man's life. It is absorbing on at least two levels, one from being able to relate to so many of the central character's thoughts and actions and the other from wondering if the same path may be in store for us one day.

My only criticism is that in a few places the author goes into a bit too much detail for my liking, but that is a personal criticism that may not bother others and admittedly is limited to a few occasions early in the book. Gaddis shows tremendous ability in scripting drama, something I had not expected, and gracefully handles a storyline that many writers would fumble. One more caveat: it is not a quail book, it is a grouse book, but don't let this detail deprive you of a commendable story, one that may even make you look forward to growing old.




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