Stuck in her grief, 43-year-old widowed writer Mary Fassler adopts a miniature schnauzer for diversion and company. The novelist, who specializes in Amish stories, is in for a surprise when her dog, Rufus, speaks to her as they are out on a winter nights walk, asking her if she thinks hes fat. Even more surprising, Rufus goes on to tell her that he talks to God once a week. Rufus becomes her walking companion and adviser, his doggy logic both naïve and insightful. When a man finally enters Marys life, things grow complicated. This charming novel sets a slow pace in the first part, undoubtedly to convey the emotionally and spiritually frozen life Mary leads. But its a bit of a plod. The faith elementsMary is angry with God over the Job-like mess in her lifeare organic, though a Christian man she meets late in the book is somewhat artificial. Marys slow healing from loss, however, is credibly rendered. Judge this book by its cover, which features a sagacious seated schnauzer, and be charmed. (Mar.) 2012 Reed Business Information.