Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Big Little Life by Dean Koontz

Published August 25, 2009.

Dean Koontz thought he had everything he needed. A novelist for nearly thirty years, with more than twenty #1 New York Times bestsellers to his credit, his career was thriving. He had been married to his high school sweetheart, Gerda, since the age of twenty, and together they had forged a happy life for themselves in their Southern California home. It was the picture of peace and contentment. Then along came Trixie.

A Big Little Life tells the story of unexpectedly falling in love with a dog in middle age. It details Trixie's life with Dean and Gerda, the tremendous impact she had on them, and the things she taught them along the way. A lively and joyful read, it presents Trixie in all her complicated glory - her smarts, her lack of vanity, and her uncanny knack of living in the present. But there's sadness here, too. Trixie held a special place in her family's heart, and her passing left a tremendous void. Dean doesn't shy away from that loss: he meets it head-on, with humor, love, and longing.

A powerful tribute to a beautiful friend,
A Big Little life will remind readers everywhere that the love of our canine best friends is a love that lasts more than a lifetime. (book back blurb)

I saw this book at BEA, saw it was Dean Koontz and yoink! Mine! In all honesty, I've never read a Dean Koontz book. I know I should. I just haven't gotten around to it yet. But despite that, in my mind's eye he's right up there with Stephen King in the realm of prolific and respect. He wouldn't be where he is today if he wasn't good at his job and didn't garner the huge amount of respect that he does. But still, I had to have this book.

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with it. I was just coming off of a string of not-so-stellar adult books but I remained neutral about this one. It's Dean Koontz after all. And as soon as I started reading, the last thing I wanted to do was put the book down.

Dean Koontz is such a down to earth guy. He comes from beyond humble beginnings and he got to where he is today because he worked his ass off. It makes me happy knowing that he really didn't start reaching success (by writing standards) until he was in his mid-thirties. It gives me hope! The book goes into a little detail about how he met his wife and how amazingly in love they were and still are. So much so that they never had children because they felt that would interfere in their time together. While some (well, maybe many) may look at that and go WTF?, I can totally respect that. Not everyone are destined to be parents. It would appear that the Koontz's were those type of people.

But this book isn't about Dean and Gerda. Not really. It's about Trixie and the profound effect she had on them. Adopting Trixie from the Canine Companions for Independence allowed Dean and Gerda to become parents to one of the greatest animals that ever walked this earth. While I'm talking about dogs in general, the way Trixie is described, she could very well be one of the greatest animals that ever walked this earth. She makes my dogs look feral by comparison.

Koontz comes at this story with a sense of dry humor that can just make you laugh uncontrollably, even in the most dire situations that they went through. Even at the end, when Trixie was on her last legs, the things she did, with hindsight anyway, were worthy of a few chuckles. No, I don't think that's morbid because as a pet owner, the last thing you want to remember about your dog is the sorrow she brought you when she was dying but the joy she brought you when she was alive. And the photos of Trixie and her parents only add to the humor and smiles that the words bring you.

Any pet owner can relate to the intense emotions that Dean and Gerda felt towards Trixie. It's something that's rare amongst humans towards other humans. We can't really give ourselves that thoroughly to one another, allow that must trust because something can still happen. With dogs, their love is unconditional and irrevocable. They love you because you're you. They don't hold a grudge, they don't get pissy with you, they won't burn your clothes. They love you and that's it. And it's to them that you can trust 100% and open your heart fully to without fear of having it stomped on.

This is a memoir of a dog but it's also a memoir of human feelings as a result of that dog coming into their lives. They change us. They make us see the world in a different light and just like any other parents, we dog owners want to protect and love and care for our dogs as if they were our own children. Because they are.

This book also made me not feel so guilty about my mourning of my first dog's death. It was about a year before I actually got over it, it had affected me so deeply. The Koontz's weren't far behind that. Dogs can be children. They can teach us things. They love us. Hell, they even act like people! The part about Trixie actually speaking, and not just woof, was amazing! This dog truly was exceptional and the Koontz's were very lucky to have been bestowed with such a wonderful and pure being.

While Trixie makes me look at my own hellspawn and go, "Why must you pee on my bed and eat my sheets?" she also makes me look at him and go, "You are my dude and I will do for you what I would do for my own child."

If you're a dog lover, you'll want to read this book. No doubt you'll be as touched as I was.


Kelly said...

I finished this book in a big old puddle. I must have went through half a box of kleenex, but I loved it!!

Donna said...

Yeah, there were a few tears there for me too. I was at work so I had to curb it a little though.

Jessica said...

I love Dean Koontz. Reading the final Frankenstein book now. I'll have to get to this one.
I've always loved how much of a dog lover he is. It really comes across in all his books.

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