A Widow, A Chihuahua, and Harry Truman is an unusual memoir of grief and recovery. Mary Beth Crain, a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Redbook and Cosmopolitan, recounts the story of her too-brief marriage, her husband's death, and her debilitating depression afterward. She describes her rehabilitation under the guidance of two Harry Trumans the President and the Chihuahua.
Crain was happily married for three years when her husband died of cancer. On the Christmas Eve after his death, Crain was in despair until she was guided to a pet store under rather mysterious and remarkable circumstances. She bought a Chihuahua puppy and named him after her hero, Harry Truman. From this point on, Crain weaves together the two emotional themes of her book: While continuing to mourn her husband's death, she was falling in love with her new puppy. She reveals how, as she passed through the stages of grieving and letting go, Truman's devotion and playfulness kept her involved in life and made her laugh. Crain shares the joys and trials of taking home a new pet. The tension in her household escalated after she introduced the puppy to her three hostile and imperious cats. As Truman expanded his social circle, Crain was amazed at the ups and downs of doggy romance, and she and Truman were forced to endure humiliating failure at obedience school. Crain's patience was challenged when an adolescent Truman decided that being housebroken was boring. Every day Truman brought chaos and craziness into Crain's life and kept her distracted from her sadness. Throughout the book, Crain reflects on the indomitable spirit and tenacity of her puppy's namesake, President Harry Truman. As she moved through this difficult time in her life, she was inspired by President Truman's life and words, and each chapter begins with a bit of practical advice from the man from Independence.
Mary Helen Clarke is a writer and editor in Nashville.