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Endal by Allen & Sandra Parton

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

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Helen Hartland

I don’t read true stories, especially true stories involving animals, so when Endal arrived from the Viking Book Club I opened it with some trepidation. I needn’t have worried. This was a moving account of a family trying to come to terms with the aftermath of a disastrous accident which left an intelligent, active man in a wheelchair with no memory of his wife and two children. It tells with sometimes brutal honesty of their struggle to cope on a daily basis and of how finding Canine Partners and Endal in particular changed their lives forever. The book is well written and I do like the way the narrative is alternated between Allen and Sandra. If you haven’t read any true stories before I would definitely say “give Endal a go”.

Pat Lillington

Allen Parton, intelligent and successful in his naval career, was involved in a road accident that left him badly brain damaged. He came home a different man: unable to walk and with debilitatingly poor memory. Even his wife and young children are strangers to him. The book relates the story of his and Sandra’s struggle to come to terms with this tragic situation. In alternate chapters we read of his and her personal perspective on the same events. Allen is deeply frustrated and resentful of his condition. Sandra is no longer a beloved wife but a struggling full time carer, housekeeper and mother. Both of them come to the brink of despair. Then a miracle happens. Endal a golden labrador enters their life. He is a ‘helping dog’ for the disabled with an exceptional ability to learn new tasks. At the same time he provides the non-judgemental friendship and independence that totally transforms Allen’s life. Sandra finds new freedom and fulfilment too. Thus, though life could never be the same, this family rediscover happiness thanks to the remarkable Endal. Not great literature, but a heart-warming and thoroughly worthwhile read.

Allen Brown

An enjoyable read. The effect of the tragic accident on the family is graphically described from the perspective of the wife and her injured husband. Although the regular switch from one to the other is neat it can seem formulaic. The frustrating attempts to obtain deserved support from the naval authorities evokes memories of the agonising struggles endured by parents wrongly accused of child abuse in the Cleveland scandals in the 1980's. The influence of the highly intelligent Labrador, Endal, is magical: he not only helps his master to live a more normal life, but he restores family happiness in a truly remarkable way. Endal may be exceptional but it is interesting to hear that the Canine Partners for Independence regularly trains dogs which help disadvantaged people. Overall this is a fascinating feel good tale, which could easily make an endearing film.

Felicity Weynberg

When I saw this book I was slightly disappointed as I am not an animal lover, and don't usually chose books revolving around them. However I was in for a very pleasant surprise. This is a wonderful book, based on a very tragic episode, and the dark years following it. The book is very well written by a couple. They write alternate chapters reflecting their different feelings on the same events throughout their lives after the accident. Their feelings and personalities come across very well, giving you the feeling of living the events with them. It is a story of tragedy and despair, which becomes a story of hope and achievement against all the odds. I would very strongly recommend this book to others.

Barbara Skinner

This is the story of how one small Labrador, Endal, changes the lives of a family on the edge of collapse. It starts with a knock on the door of Navy wife Sandra, telling her that her husband, Allen, has been injured in a car accident whilst serving in the Gulf War. What exactly happened is unclear, but he suffers brain damage and memory loss. After many different hospitals, he is discharged into the care of his wife with disastrous results. He cannot remember his wife or children – to him Sandra is his carer and housekeeper, nothing more. Things change dramatically when Sandra takes him to a dog training centre she is involved with. Here he meets Endal, opening the door to a new life of independence, culminating in a second wedding, one Allen can remember. Endal helps Allen with everything in his daily tasks, even saving his life. For his bravery, Endal is awarded the PDSA Gold Medal and gets a Blue Peter Gold Badge, just like the Queen! Allen and Sandra train more dogs, allowing other disabled people the chance of independence and companionship. I thoroughly enjoyed this book – not one I would normally choose.

Susan Ramsey

This is a book that is difficult to put down when you start reading it. It gives two perspectives in the account – so you can fully understand how Allen and his wife, Sandra, see things. This makes it more interesting as well as involving you more in the story. You fully realise how difficult things are for the family and appreciate how injury can effect, not only the person who is the patient, but the family as a whole. You tend to think that people who survive are lucky, but this widens that perspective. When the Labrador appears in the book, you can really appreciate his character. He makes such a change in the family and he seems to be both intelligent and intuitive in his approach to Allen. He gives Allen back his independence and seems to be willing to devote his life to helping him. He really is a character in his own right! I would not have chosen this book to read – I don’t normally read animal stories – and I would have missed out. It is a story that will grip you and you will want to read it to the end – ideal for a Viking cruise!

Monica Ellis

A moving story as told by both Allen & Sandra, each writing a chapter in turn. In this way they could truthfully describe their own emotions in each situation. As a result of a car accident while serving as a Naval Officer in the Gulf War in 1991, Allen received a head injury that left him with severe memory loss as well as paralysis in his legs. He did not even recognise his wife and children, when he came home. The way Sandra, a nurse, describes her utter desperation and then her determination to make the most of the situation as she now finds the family in, is truly memorable. Allen is moved from hospital to a rehabilitation hospital called Headley Court. Allen hates it there and is not able to understand that he cannot just put on his uniform and pack his kit bag and go back to the naval base and a ship. He goes home to Sandra and his children at weekends, but feels a stranger and the children Liam and Zoe are too young to understand that Daddy does not interact with them and that he is like a stranger to them. These early years after the accident are a long struggle for Sandra who finds it almost impossible to cope, also financially when Allan loses his job in the navy. At one point in 1997 Allen's best friend Keith takes Allen to San Diego to watch the Paralyzed Veterans of America Annual Games. It was important that he could see other disabled people who refused to let their physical handicaps limit them. Sandra describes that on his return home Allen was telling her how impressed he was with the Assistance Dogs some disabled athletes had to help them. Sandra had heard of an organisation called Canine Partners for Independence which trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities. This becomes a turning point in the family's life. Sandra starts to volunteer at the centre which gives a boost to her difficult life with Allen, who is still very difficult to live with and emotionally very unresponsive. Sandra gets very involved with the puppy training and this then leads to Allen having the chance to have his assistance dog Endal, who changes his life and that of his family around completely. ENDAL turns out to be an incredibly intelligent dog who learns to do amazing things for Allen, like opening cupboard doors, emptying the washing machine and more remarkably learns to operate a cash point machine, by inserting the card, removing the card and then the cash. Allen and Endal become extremely well known and Allen is invited by the media to give talks. ENDAL seems to know exactly what is expected of him and he even prevents Allen being mugged one night by barking and barking so loudly that the mugger runs away. The 'adventures' that Allen and ENDAL have together are numerous. They are totally inseparable. Eventually ENDAL has to be 'retired' from his 'job' because of severe arthritis. A new puppy EJ comes into the family and slowly learns from ENDAL how to take care of Allen. ENDAL then enjoys a happy retirement with the family. A true story of the wonderful relationship between a human being and his trusted friend, his dog!

Kirsteen MacLean

I came to this book fresh as I was not aware of the story of Allen and Endal, it captured me right from the start. So much so that I read the book in a day. The way the book was set out, with a chapter from Allen's perspective followed by on from Susan's was good. The story covered several years and although on reflection it was superficial it did convey the mood. At times I wanted more of how the changes imposed on their lives but then realised that was not the purpose of the book, it was on the developing relationship between Allen and Endal, the dog who gave him a life, not the one he had had before the accident but one for the future, and in that the book achieves it aim. A book to inspire and to give insight into the remarkable relationship between dog and man. A really good read and inspiring.

Nicola Cooper

This is not a genre I would normally read, so I was not enthusiastic to start reading. However I was pleasantly surprised to find Endal not only gripped me, but that I became drawn in to the story very quickly. The format of a pair of sequential chapters by Allen & Sandra Parton covering a similar time frame gave a compelling, and at times heart-breaking, insight into their lives and how Endal changed their family dynamic. This also meant that I was keen to get on to the next chapter of the story, making it a very quick read. I think the format is ideal for a holiday book as you can easily read a pair of chapters at one sitting. It is well written and really leaves you with a great respect for the love and tenacity of the Parton family." I have avoided talking about the content as this is given as a precis on the book itself, but just concentrated on whether I thought the book was suitable for a holiday read.

Janet Arthur

This is a "feel-good" book about a wonderful dog and how he helped Allen Parton and his family after Allen's head injury. It is not the kind of book I normally read, but I enjoyed it very much. It is a gripping story and is well written, with Allen and Sandra narrating alternate chapters. Indeed it is hard to put down and this might make it less suitable for reading on a cruise, where there are many other calls on the reader's time! On the other hand it is an undemanding story, perfect for a restful sea-day lying in the sun.

Terry Gibbs

I wasn’t at all sure about this book, it’s not the sort of subject matter I would normally pick up and read, but I am so glad I did on this occasion. The book is well written and flows easily, it drew me into the story from the first page and kept me captivated until the last. I immediately felt the frustration of the main characters and felt the emotions, each page left me wanting to know more. I found it particularly interesting how the story was told from both parties’ view and especially the insight that Allen’s recounting of his experiences gives on those unfortunate to suffer brain injury and how very difficult it is for them to readjust to “normal” life after. There a points in the story which make you realise that even small events and chance encounters can have huge impacts to a life and a person’s future. A thoroughly enjoyable read and highly recommended, not to be missed.

Robert Harris

Robert Harris This is not a genre of book which I would normally read. However I found this an illuminating insight in people suffering from brain injuries. The book is written jointly by a husband and wife covering a period of many years following the husband sustaining serious brain trauma. It details the effects on the individuals and the family unit of the emotional, physical and psychological problems suffered by Allen. Eventually their lives begin to improve after the couple become involved, individually, with Canine Partners for Independence a charity which trains assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities. The second half of the book describes the changes and improvements in Allen’s life after he meets and bonds with Endal, a remarkable dog. Not only is his life transformed, as a consequence, the whole family benefit. After a dark and depressing beginning this true life story becomes uplifting and inspiring. A tribute to both human and canine perseverance.