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Longboat author's novel transforms grief to good

After losing her cocker spaniel Molly, Jean Tarsy wrote "I'm in Heaven" to help herself and others.

Tarsy's writing reflects her love for Molly. (Photo by Lesley Dwyer)
Tarsy's writing reflects her love for Molly. (Photo by Lesley Dwyer)
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A year after her American cocker spaniel, Molly, died on what would have been her 13th birthday, Jean Tarsy made a decision.

“I have to sit down and get over this,” she said. “I have to work it out.” 

So Tarsy wrote a second book about her favorite furry companion. In 2008, Molly was the subject of her first book, “Just Molly and Me and Nikki Make Three.” The second book is aptly titled “I’m in Heaven” and was published in July.  

While the first book was geared towards children in elementary and middle school, Tarsy says her second book is for animal lovers and anyone who has experienced loss, regardless of age. 

The proceeds from both books benefit Tarsy’s favorite charities. As a former interior designer with celebrity clients, she didn’t need the money, she said, but needed to heal and wanted to help others.

“I had a very, very tough time getting over her,” Tarsy said. “I would sit there and cry that she’s not there in the chair. It was just awful.”

Well-meaning friends and family suggested getting another dog, but it was too soon; and Tarsy had been diagnosed with asthma shortly before Molly died in 2019. In the midst of her grief, she tried to take a different perspective that maybe this was the time for her to rest.

Tarsy’s rest comes in the form of art. She’s an art lover and painter. Walking through her home feels like a mini museum tour. Not all, but much of the art is her own, including a painting of Molly. There are reminders of Molly throughout the home including a shaggy replica that sits on Tarsy’s desk. 

Molly was a regular on the Tarsys' Christmas cards each year. (Photo by Lesley Dwyer)
Molly was a regular on the Tarsys' Christmas cards each year. (Photo by Lesley Dwyer)

Tarsy and her husband originally bought a weekend condo on Longboat Key when they were still full-time New Yorkers and owned a home on Long Island. They moved to Florida permanently 20 plus years ago.

They owned condos on Longboat for 17 years. But ultimately, the couple found they were “house people,” Tarsy said. Sick of the click clack of high heels over their heads, they found a single-family home on Bird Key. 

The first book contains an illustration of their back yard. Molly is sitting in her favorite spot overlooking the bay. The books are compilations of true stories and real life characters. Her grandchildren and their animals appear, along with other furry and human family and friends. 

When it came time to write the second, Tarsy set aside the grief and focused on the good times and where Molly is now, which makes the book’s message universal.

“It places something in your life that has left you, and after, you have a feeling of where this person or this thing has gone,” she said, “And if you believe in God, you know God takes care of it.” 

When the sky is a deeper shade of blue or a light hits her just right, Tarsy gets teary-eyed knowing that both she and Molly have peace now. That knowing, along with fond memories, transformed her grief into gratitude.  

Born to an artist father, Tarsy painted in her free time from a young age but never wrote anything outside of school papers. She credits her writing career to retirement. 

“When you retire and don’t have your business on your mind, you have a clear mind. You think things are funny, and you can laugh about them,” she said. “Being your mind is clear, you can develop these things and think about them.” 

Tarsy’s books are available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. In January, she’ll be signing copies at the two local B&N stores in Sarasota and University Town Center.



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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