Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: A Big Little Life

A Big Little Life
by Dean Koontz
Hyperion (ARC obtained at BEA 2009)
Copyright 2009
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Now I will admit that I am a sucker for a good dog story. Somehow these furry canine friends have a way of pulling at my heartstrings and never letting go. So when I was walking down the Book Expo of America aisles this past May in a bleary-eyed state of over-stimulation and noticed a free ARC with an adorable golden retriever on the cover, I was instantly attracted. The fact that the book was written by a well-known author (although I had not yet read any of his novels), I could not resist taking a copy. Unfortunately I had to immediately start summer school upon returning from the Expo, and the book has sat on my shelf ever since.

The week before the read-athon I had some free time and knew I didn't want to start a "deep" novel. While perusing my collection for a lighter read, this book seemed to fit the bill. I began reading on Wednesday night and finished early on Saturday morning. It is a quick read - but not fluff. I instantly fell in love with Trixie, but more surprisingly, I grew to admire Dean Koontz.

I believe you can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they behave around animals, and as I stated in one of my read-athon posts, Dean Koontz is an obvious man of character. He has been married to his wife for over 32 years, and while they have never had children, they both considered Trixie to be their daughter.

Dean and his wife have worked together for decades and their daily schedule is to be admired. They typically put in 10+ hour days and, until recently when they purchased a beach house to force them to take time off --- they also worked on weekends. While the old saying is partially true "you can't teach an old dog new tricks", the Koontz family had no problem assimilating this new pet into their hectic workaholic lives. Trixie would accompany them everywhere, and because she was a released service dog, she was very well trained.

I enjoyed hearing about the Koontz's devotion to the Canine Companions for Independence and the services that this organization offers to those in need. I have a personal interest in this kind of organization, and this book has caused me to want to learn even more. I have done some internet research in my own area and while Canine Companions does not have a local chapter in Kansas City, I did find an organization, Dogs Helping Humans, that does. I hope to someday visit their location and perhaps do some of my own research for a possible story idea.

Dean Koontz would say that his life was greatly enriched by having Trixie as a part of the family. I would argue that Trixie was also blessed to be a part of the Koontz family. While I dote on my three yellow labs (some would argue to excess), both Dean and Gerda lavished love and praise on Trixie. But they also spared no expense. Trixie had many health issues that required several surgeries and many different kinds of medical "procedures." They were fortunate to have the financial means to give Trixie the best care available. I am not sure that I would be able to do that for my canine children, so I will instead pray for their continued good health.

After finishing this book I felt compelled to read more of Dean Koontz's work. Since he is such a prolific writer (and continues to write and publish new material), I was somewhat overwhelmed by the selection. Ultimately I chose The Darkest Evening of the Year because of the great cover picture and the fact that the protagonist has "dedicated her life to the rescue of abandoned and endangered golden retrievers."

In closing this review, let me leave you with one of the many profound quotes I read in this memoir:
One of the greatest gifts we receive from dogs is the tenderness the evoke in us. The disappointments of life, the injustices, the battering events that are beyond our control, and the betrayals that we endure from those we befriended and loved can make us cynical and turn our hearts into flint on which only the matches of anger and bitterness can be struck into flame. Other companion animals can make us more human, but because of the unique nature of dogs - their clear delight in being with us, the rejoicing with which they greet us when we come home to them, the reliable sunniness of their disposition, the joy they bring to playtime, the curiosity and wonder with which they embrace each new experience - they can melt away cynicism and sweeten a bitter heart. (page 190)


  1. I am a big dog lover, too and totally agree that they enhance your life. This book sounds wonderful to me.

  2. I had no idea Dean Koontz had ever written anything other than horror books. Interesting!

  3. That cover would have sucked me in, too!

  4. My husband and I donate to helping dog programs. They are so wonderful!

    If you want to read another Koontz book in which a dog plays a huge part, try Watchers. It is my favorite book of his!


  5. I couldn't agree more with this: "I believe you can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they behave around animals."

  6. You MUST read Watchers. That was the first book of his that had a Golden in it. It's wonderful. Much better than Darkest Evening (in my opinion).

  7. Oh my goodness I love that passage at the end of your quote--especially being a fairly new dog owner--I see how true that is with us and our Molly girl. I must say though that I swore off dog books the night I finished reading Where the Red Fern grows out loud to my boys. I was sobbing so hard I could barely get the words out--nope. Reading about pets dying is not on my agenda anymore! ;) Glad you liked the books though, and like other commenters I had no idea Koontz wrote anything by horror.

  8. Thanks..this was a revelation about Dean Koontz...You and your family would enjoy the Planet Of The Dogs Series. Sample chapters and info on www.planetofthedogs.net...I'll send you a complimentary book --your choice -- if you email me at barkingplanet@aol.com
    PS I'm writing about your review on our end-of-the month post http://barkingplanet.typepad.com

  9. This sounds like a big departure from the Dean Koontz books I've read ... but in a good way! : )

  10. I've enjoyed this book entirely. I suggest that it can be enjoyed by dog lovers, detail-oriented people, devoted individuals, and those that love someone who is any of those three.


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