Dr. Robert Heller understands cats. And dogs. Heck, and snails—whatever animal you call your own, “Dr. Bob” can take care of it. In fact, his veterinary skills are so cherished that Dr. Bob is truly living his dream: He works in a small, New York City-based veterinary practice where his patients’ owners have come to trust him, reports to a vet whom he has long admired, writes an advice column in one of the city’s newspapers and has married a woman who is nearly too good to be true.

Just don’t turn to him with people problems. Those aren’t his forte. Maybe it’s because of Bob’s family—his brother Ted, for example, is driven by appearances and willing to step on anyone to get what he wants. It’s behavior that Bob’s parents enable. “In truth, most humans were complete ciphers to me,” Bob explains. “But I could pet the head of a horse, look into its eyes, and absolutely understand what he wanted, what was pulsing through that insanely strong body.”

After they’ve married, Bob’s wife Anna asks him why, of all the people out there, he decided to trust her. That’s a question Bob can’t quite answer; all he knows is that when he found her, he found a piece of himself.

But Bob can’t live his life in communication with only animals, and when tragedy strikes, he’s forced to cope with the consequences. Although Ask Bob appears at first to be a story about a man who understands animals at the expense of human relationships, it’s actually a story about family—human, feline, canine and otherwise. And as Bob explores the similarities between humans and animals, he realizes that familial relationships can affect who you become, but a person can also triumph over his or her past. In Ask Bob, author Peter Gethers (The Cat Who Went to Paris) has created a story with immense heart.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Peter Gethers for Ask Bob.

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