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A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 25, 2009
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Ted Kerasote Reviews A Big Little Life
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.
“[A] love letter to his golden retriever.”—People
“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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
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 A BIG LITTLE LIFE - it will move you in unexpected ways. Even if you're not a dog lover, you can't help but be inspired by this animal's impact on the humans in her life. Koontz writes, "We are a community of potential saints with a shared destiny, and each of us is a thread in a tapestry of meaning." Trixie is the one who helped Koontz see this and live this - and in that alone she was an angel. This is a lovely tribute to a very special dog.
I admit I haven't read Dean Koontz in ages. When I was a kid, I liked his suspense and horror books well enough, but we parted ways right around when I went to college.
Since then, we'd been strangers. Life got in the way, the normal business of making money that's already been long-since relegated to one bill or another.
Last summer my dog died. Not just any dog, but my spirit animal, my totem. She was the best and most beautiful dog I ever knew, my business partner in my animal behavior consulting business. She was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma after an emergency splenectomy. She, my robust warrior princess, succumbed just weeks after her surgery and a few days after her 10th birthday. The loss of her knocked the wind and all the joy right out of me. I couldn't believe it - she'd been so healthy her whole life and then she was...gone.
I don't remember how I came across this book - I think it was a GoodReads suggestion. Wherever I learned of it, I can only say that It came into my life just when I needed a read exactly this wonderful.
A Big Little Life is a gorgeous book. I laughcried throughout most of it. It is such a stunning tribute to a beautiful dog, a great friendship, and a life well lived. It ranks up there with some of the top dog books I've read (and I'm no slouch - I have two floor-to-ceiling bookcases dedicated to dog books alone) and is one I look forwarded to reading again someday, after my heart has healed a little further. This takes the number one slot in the "dog tribute" subgenre of dog books.
This is a book for dog lovers, written by a man who very obviously loved Trixie a great deal.
RECOMMENDED PAIRING: hot tea, rainy day, snuggled under some blankets on the couch next to one or more of your favorite dogs.
We've now been owned by 4 Golden Retrievers, and this book put our love for them into words we couldn't express ourselves but definitely felt. Thank you!
From the mundane, to the hilarious, and the frightening, and finally the sad - Mr. Koontz gives us fodder for our mental and spiritual gristmills, while letting our hearts swell and soar with joy.
Read this book. You will be grateful.