Host An Unforgettable Book Club

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Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook

Must Love Dogs“Voluptuous, sensuous, alluring and fun.  Barely 40 DWF seeks special man to share starlit nights.  Must love dogs.”

Ah, the age of “blind” dating.  Sarah Hurlihy is a barely 40 DWF, whose meddling sister, Carol, writes up an ad for Sarah and puts it in the newspaper personals.   Sarah finally answers one of the ads and decides to meet John Anderson at a dog park.  She borrows her brother’s dog, Mother Teresa, and looks for someone who resembles Harrison Ford.  And with that the crazy new love life of Sarah Hurlihy begins.   Must Love Dogs, a novel by Claire Cook.

Book Club Party Ideas for Must Love Dogs

Not everyone who comes to your book club party Must Love Dogs, but it is fun to do something for those who do.  I had everyone submit a favorite photo of their dog and we voted on which one we liked the best.  I gave a dog toy to the winning photo (see below).

Another idea that came from a friend of mine, who is in a different book club, is to meet at a dog park.  They packed snacks and drinks for themselves and discussed the book while their dogs played.


Sarah’s brother, Michael, brings Sarah a bouquet of flowers to thank her for listening to his marital struggles.  The main flowers in this arrangement were chrysanthemums.  I purchased a beautiful bouquet for my center piece at my local supermarket.


In the tradition of the Hurlihy’s Irish blood and having some Irish blood myself, I chose to play Ireland’s Greatest Hits.

Book Club Menu for Must Love Dogs

The inspiration for the meal came from two different scenes in the book.  In one scene, Sarah and her dad sit on the couch watching The Brady Bunch and enjoying tomato soup and oyster crackers.   In the other scene, Sarah and John are trying to enjoy a meal at Sarah’s house when Carol and her husband stop by to drop off  Thanksgiving leftovers.  I decided to make a light meal of Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and Thanksgiving Turkey Club served with Sweet Potato Fries.  I had some Irish Stout on hand for those who wanted to enjoy a beer.

For dessert, I made an Irish Cream Parfait served with coffee.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Tomatoes, Basil Recipes

Thanksgiving Turkey Club and Sweet Potato Fries

Turkey, cranberries, Sandwich, sweet potato fries recipes

Bucket of Irish Stout

Beer, ice, water

Irish Cream Parfait with Pecan-Toffee Crunch

Parfait with toffee crunch topping

Book Club Resources


  • “[A] laugh-out-loud novel…a light and lively read for anyone who has tried to reenter the dating scene – or tried to ‘fix up’ someone else.” — Boston Herald
  • “Claire Cook’s characters aren’t rich or glamorous — they’re physically imperfect, emotionally insecure, and deeply familiar.  Must Love Dogs is a sweet funny novel about first dates and second chances.” — Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children
  • “Utterly charming…a fun read.” —Library Journal
  • “A wry look at contemporary courtship rituals, as well as a warm portrayal of a large Irish-American family.” — St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Discussion Questions for Must Love Dogs

  1. Sarah’s sister writes up a personal ad for Sarah, even though Sarah is reluctant.  “If I became overly interested in it, I might start to imagine a life beyond the one I’d botched.  And if I hoped for a new life, I’d be crushed if one never surfaced.” (Page 40)  Do most divorced people feel this way?  Does having meddling family members help or hinder this situation?  What experiences have you had with a family member leading you to do something that you weren’t quite comfortable with?  How did it turn out?
  2. What team are you on – Team John Anderson or Team Bob Connor?  Did Sarah make the right decision in the end?
  3. Have you had an experience with personal ad dating?  Were the “potentials” truthful in their ads?  How has the world of personal ad dating changed over the years with the internet so prominent?

The Author

Claire Cook’s eighth novel will be out in June of 2011.  She wrote her first novel at age 45 while sitting in her minivan during her daughter’s swim practice.  Her second novel, Must Love Dogs, was made into a movie.

 And the Winner is:  

Annie's Rudy with an Updo

Annie’s Rudy with an Updo

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Feel free to add your ideas, comments or book review below.

  1. Awww! Thanks for understanding my Rudy!

    Comment by Annie

  2. Just read Cook’s Seven Year Switch. The heroine, Jill, teaches a class at a local community center featuring a different nationalities foods every week. Loads of great ideas for a book club!

    Comment by Lisa

  3. We’ll have a reader’s submission form up later today, and would love to hear other’s ideas!

    Comment by Annie