The Right Side: A Novel - Spencer Quinn

How could I not read this? Just look at that cover…..a woman & a dog. It’s not exactly love at first sight but they just might end up saving each other.


When we meet Sgt. LeAnne Hogan, a few things are immediately clear. She has PTSD following a horrific attack in Afghanistan that also cost her an eye. Her brain is seriously scrambled. And she’s really, really angry. Thank God for Marci, her one-legged hospital roommate.


LeAnne’s memory of the attack is as fragmented as the right side of her face. But when an army investigator shows up with a briefcase of questions, she begins to wonder if she screwed up. Any interest she had in cooperating goes out the window when Marci suddenly dies. The hospital becomes an unbearable place & LeAnne is soon on the first bus out of town.


She has no idea where she’s going but it feels good to be on the move. Her prickly personality & damaged face keep people at bay as she struggles to adapt to her new reality. Just keeping track of her slippery thoughts can be exhausting. It’s the memory of Marci that eventually gives her direction & LeAnne  heads to Bellville, Washington to visit Coreen & Mia, Marci’s mother & daughter.


Once there, she discovers not only has she missed Marci’s funeral but Mia is missing. And while some people are welcoming there are others who’d prefer she move on. LeAnne rents a small cabin & soon acquires a new friend who is large, black, pushy & opinionated. And she has sharp teeth to back up the major ‘tude. But she also senses her new human’s frailty & as LeAnne begins to search for Mia, her furry partner becomes a constant presence on her right side.


It’s the beginning of a mystical relationship that gives LeAnne strength as she digs for clues in the present & faces up to her past.


Mia’s story line doesn’t appear until the second half of the book & despite the blurb description, it’s really a vehicle for the development of the MC. This is LeAnne’s story. Through her character, we experience all the fear, confusion, anger & hopelessness that shadows someone struggling with PTSD. She begins as a lost soul who can’t even trust herself let alone others. When she finally attempts a relationship, it’s with another outcast & I loved that the author chose to make that character a dog. Anyone who’s had a furry child knows there’s something about their silent acceptance & unconditional affection that makes the worst day a little easier to get through.


In LeAnne’s case, she finds a companion whose circumstances mirror her own…..another scruffy looking stray trying to figure out where she belongs. Like most friends, they have their disagreements. But when the chips are down, they also have each others’ back.


By the end most of the past & present has been resolved. Instead of a cheesy miraculous transformation, LeAnne is changed in subtle ways which is much more realistic. She’s an interesting, compelling character & if she & the ferocious furball decide to hit the road again, I’d happily go along for the ride.