When I was reading my ARC Will’s Red Coat, this is what I posted on my Facebook page:

That feeling when you’re reading a book you simultaneously want to savor and tear through; when you know your heart’s going to break and burst wide open at the same time. When it makes you want to be more present, see more, love more, laugh more. That’s a book.”

A part of me wants to just leave the review at that, but it wouldn’t really be fair, or enough. Will’s Red Coat, being released on April 25, 2017, is the much-anticipated second book from Tom Ryan, author of the best-selling (and 2011 personal favorite read), Following Atticus.

Inevitably, readers and fans of Following Atticus will compare it to Will’s Red Coat.   But just as Will and Atticus are two different dogs, these are two different books, and should be read and appreciated for their uniqueness.
First things first: this is no “who rescued who?” story. Tom will be quick to tell you that if Will was rescued, he did it himself.  Tom just gave Will a home and tried to surround him with things that pleased him.  Will was the one who chose to take advantage of that. Followers of Tom’s blog, and/or the Following Atticus Facebook page, know the high points of this story.  Tom agreed to take Will into his home with Atticus.  Will was an old dog, surrendered by owners too old and feeble to care for him any longer. A rescue group was looking for someone willing to foster Will and give him a place to die with dignity.  Tom said yes, and was greeted by a brittle, scared, angry Will. What was supposed to be just a few months of giving an old dog comfort in his final days turned into two years of wonder and life.  Will’s Red Coat takes us deeper in this story.   Tom tells the story of a little dog who was abandoned, mostly blind, deaf, and in all likelihood, terrified of being away from the only surroundings he knew.  He chose to find beauty in the smell of fresh flowers and in the vibration of music, and eventually in his companions. This is a book about living as much as it is about dying.  Dying well- surrounded by love and with dignity- is a privilege.  It is just as much a privilege to be a part of someone’s death.  This is something that can be appreciated by reading about it, and is one  beautiful part of this book.
I said at the beginning of this review that like Atticus and Will, Following Atticus and Will’s Red Coat are different books.   Their stories are different, and Tom’s relationship with each of them is different. So Will’s Red Coat is not Following Atticus: The Sequel.   While “Onward, by all means” was a major part of Following Atticus, I think readers of Will’s Red Coat will find Tom’s Aunt Marijane’s words the inspiration in this book.  People who read Following Atticus may feel they  “know” Atticus better than Will, but keep in mind Tom and Atticus  had a longer friendship than did Will and Tom.
 I ugly cried in this book. But it’s crying from the simultaneous heart breaking and bursting open that I mentioned. Yes, it was sad,  but it was also beautiful. And I think that is the magic, the appeal, of Tom’s writing.  Tom lives an authentic life.  He is true to himself and this comes through in his writing.   It’s what makes me, when I read his books, think about my own life, helping me be more authentic and focus on the activities and people that bring me joy.  It’s also Tom’s approach to others in his life- both human and animal.  He lets them be who they are, and it is something I take away from the books.  The beauty of the mundane comes through in Tom’s books, and that is one of the things I like most about them.