Annie, daughter of an Episcopalian priest, inherits a wolfhound from a woman in the parish. While on a walk, she and her huge dog discover a homeless woman in an old abandoned shed. The woman is mentally unstable, having escaped from a mental institution. Originally suspicious and threatening, she finally calms to Annie's spunky attentions and tells her the problem: her condition can be controlled with a drug they administered in the mental hospital, but conditions in the hospital were so dehumanizing she's unwilling to go back even for medical relief.

Annie makes a project of helping the old woman, though her father objects, preferring the institutional solution. Annie finds an ally in her father's assistant, a more socially active priest. With his help Annie makes the parish and her father aware of problems in institutions that care for the mentally ill. Her father finally admits to the congregation that the parish ought to be more invested in local social services.


This unusual novel entwines a very ordinary and appealing girl-and-her-dog story with a much larger, more adult theme of social awareness and community responsibility for the mentally ill. Annie is a believable, engaging character, though her first encounters with the old woman may understate the fear, risk, or bafflement such a person in a deranged state might present.

Annie's efforts to make her father understand the problem in a more personal way are handled with due respect to the father's dilemma. The complexity of caring for the homeless and mentally ill, while not explored in great detail, is at least suggested, and the father's greater engagement at the end is not simply a concession to a crusading daughter, but a reawakened sense of the role of the church in serving the poor and sick where therapeutic institutions fall short.



Place Published

New York