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A Big Little Life Paperback – July 12, 2011
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Anyone who has read Dean Koontz’s novels (my favorite is Watchers) knows that he can tell a gripping tale while being perceptive about dogs, an insight made more noteworthy by the fact that Koontz didn’t have a dog for the longest time. Finally in 1998 he and his wife Gerda corrected this omission by adopting Trixie, a Golden Retriever and trained assistance dog, who had been forced by elbow problems to retire in her third year of service. It was the happiest forced retirement imaginable--for Trixie, for the Koontzes, and for all of us who are now privileged to read Dean Koontz’s loving memoir of this remarkable being: A Big Little Life.
Like all great writers, Koontz has the ability to transform the ordinary--his daily life with Trixie--into the funny, the moving, and the sublime. Trixie’s accidentally gashing him while they play fetch turns into one of the great set pieces of medical comedy as Koontz ends up in the emergency room with a lacerated hand. On another occasion Trixie’s saying “baw” for “ball”--straining to say it, but saying it nonetheless--becomes a memorable recounting of all of our attempts to communicate with beings from another species. And Koontz’s simply watching Trixie move, her lithe golden body shimmering and flashing in the sun, takes on the quality of the divine as he expresses what so many of us have subconsciously thought about our own dogs: “The more I watched her, the more she seemed to be an embodiment of that greatest of all graces we now and then glimpse, from which we intuitively infer the hand of God.”
It is no exaggeration to say that Trixie was the hand of God for Koontz. He recounts his difficult childhood, his dysfunctional father, and the many challenges that he had to overcome on the road to becoming a world-famous novelist. But with that fame came commercial caution: telling stories in the same old familiar way and a consequent dulling of his creativity. Then came Trixie. With “baws” and balls, with warning him of fires and intruders in the house, with humor, with stoicism, and with unflinching love, she restored his diminished sense of wonder and impelled him toward taking new risks with narratives, themes, and characters, the very ones millions of us now enjoy.
“Some dog, huh?” he says.
“Some dog, yes,” we must agree, also concurring when he adds, “The only significant measure of your life is the positive effect you have on others.”
For all of us who have had our lives made better by our dogs, or for that matter by any loving being, A Big Little Life is a welcome reminder of the power of love to turn our hearts into mirrors, reflecting compassion back into the universe--as Trixie most surely did for Koontz and Koontz now does for us.
“Read this book to be entertained, uplifted and deeply moved.”—The Bark
“A humorous, poignant portrait of [a] remarkable dog.”—Kirkus Reviews
“One dog book that everyone . . . will deeply enjoy.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A delightful read. . . an unusually effective brief for the joy that dogs bring us.”—The American Spectator
“A tender, insightful, loving homage . . . an inspirational book of love, hope and humor.”—Bookreporter.com
Top Customer Reviews
This innocent, joyful, intelligent, uncannily mysterious, dignified, fun-loving dog, retired before the age of three as a service dog with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), became part of the Koontz family in 1998. I was surprised to find out that many of Koontz's dog novels, including "Watchers," had been written before he ever had a dog; obviously he already had an affinity for canines. He and Gerda had been supporters of CCI for eight years before adopting Trixie.
I loved Koontz's account of how Trixie's intelligence and sense of wonder revealed that she had a soul, and restored his and Gerda's own sense of wonder. Trixie made it evident that dogs are not mindless mechanisms operating solely on instinct, as some animal behaviorists would have us believe, but rather that they do think, possess intuition, experience emotions similar to ours, have a sense of humor, and even a spiritual dimension.
Of course, there is real sadness in the account of Trixie's last days, and her death, and it brought me to tears. But there's also gratitude for the joy she brought to the Koontzes' lives, and hope that her spirit survives. On the whole, this inspiring memoir is joyous, delightful and lively, and much of it is very funny. I highly recommend this book to all dog lovers and to readers who enjoy Koontz's dog stories.
A BIG LITTLE LIFE is a very spiritual memoir, and Koontz is clear that he saw Trixie as an angel (in the overarching, grandly sacred sense). One of Koontz's acquaintances referred to Trixie as a "holy soul," and that is just the way Koontz portrays her. In the memoir he describes incident after incident that reveals Trixie as an amazingly special being, with the ability to connect with the humans in her world, to differentiate between good and evil, and to see beyond the mundane. Whether or not you believe the stories Koontz tells, it's impossible to read this book and not feel the impact of this dog on the lives of her human owners.
I've read most of Koontz's novels - I have always found them to be both frightening and uplifting in their affirmation of the human spirit. Even his most disturbing novels (like INTENSITY) contain within them an element of hope that leaves the reader profoundly touched. My favorite Koontz novel has always been WATCHERS, in which a wonderful golden retriever named Einstein leads her human companions out of the darkness. That this novel was written over ten years before Koontz acquired his own wonderful golden is amazing!Read more ›
Joy is Trixie.
Trixie, adopted by Dean and Gerda Koontz, is at the heart of this book: We learn how Trixie came into and became an inextricable part of their lives; and then, by her untimely departure, made them realize that relationship, that "dance" (as Jan Strnad put it), was such an enriching and uplifting life experience. To Dean and Gerda, Trixie Koontz was an angelic entity who, by example, deepened and enriched their lives; she constantly reminded them about all the things in life that truly matter: experiences and trust and the deepening bond of friendship that blossoms into love and, finally, heartbreak when Trixie died. (Yes, they adopted another Golden Retriever, who actually is in Trixie's family tree. Small world.)
Dean is an exquisitely careful writer who, to my mind, has probed deep into the timeless relationship that we have with our canine companions that live for one purpose: to experience, and share, joy. It's a joy that Dean and Gerda nearly missed out on because, as they explained, they were busy with their lives and careers and didn't want to be irresponsible and not give the dog the attention she deserved. Finally, they realized that -- as in all things in life -- the perfect time to take action is NOW: not next month, not next year, or not ten years down the road when you "have the time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of my favorite books. It is a true story about author Dean Koontz' dog. It is nothing like the other books he writes. Came when it was supposed to and was in good condition. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Pat42
Phenomenal read for anyone who has ever loved their dog like a human. This book is absolutely moving. Way more than a book about a dog; it's a book with life lessons ... Read morePublished 4 days ago by SueShip
As a fellow dog lover, enjoyed Dean Koontz's portrayal of their dog's life. Was able to relate to many experiences they had with Trixie...even at end of her life.Published 4 days ago by Art
The depth and skill and honesty in this biography of a special soul given into your care has touched me to my core. Thank you.Published 6 days ago by Kindle Customer
But when he write true stories about his dog or anything Canine, just love him!Published 23 days ago by Golden Love Dog Mom
Sweet little story for dog lovers, who will identify with many of the feelings expressed here.Published 25 days ago by Susan
A wonderful expression of life and love. I would recommend it to anyone who has loved and appreciated the reciprocated love of an animal. Thank you Dean!Published 25 days ago by Barbara