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The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

Review

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

In his fourth memoir about his family, Rick Bragg writes about his poorly behaved and beloved dog, Speck, who adopted him in his time of need. When this beleaguered pooch arrives, Bragg doesn’t know what to make of him but eventually realizes that he has been granted the gift of a hilarious and poorly behaved animal who loves him unconditionally.

At age 60, Bragg is living in his mother’s basement while recovering from heart and kidney failure resulting from his treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Not long after he arrives there, an unruly, half-blind Australian shepherd, who is clearly a stray, begins visiting Bragg as if knowing that he needs a friend. Injured, mistreated and half-starved, the dog, who they eventually name the Speckled Beauty (Speck for short), is thrilled to find humans who are kind and compassionate.

"Speck demonstrates how to live a life of unbridled joy and love with abandon even when life knocks you down. Which is something everyone needs in 2021."

Over time, Bragg and his loved ones are equally pleased to have a new member of the family --- one who adores them, is always happy to see them, and provides humor often when it is most unexpected. From howling at the moon in the middle of the night to picking fights with livestock many times his size to terrorizing the FedEx man, Speck loves life to the fullest and wastes little time on things that do not appeal to him.

But THE SPECKLED BEAUTY isn’t just about a dog. Bragg infuses these stories with his signature wit and cantankerousness while musing on life in the South, growing older, family, the pandemic and health issues. While there are fabulous chapters about the perfect dog he wanted (“The Dog I Had in Mind”) and how Speck kept tripping him up (“Tumbling, Tumbling Down”), there are also ones about his own poor health (“Big Deal” and “Dog Days”) and his brother’s as well (“Of Mules and Men”). Those familiar with Bragg will find a more somber and reflective individual in this book as he grapples with aging and the isolation everyone experienced in 2020.

Bragg details how his life has been forever changed by Speck’s arrival, explaining how the rescuer ultimately becomes the rescued. But readers will take more away from this book than just touching and funny stories. Speck demonstrates how to live a life of unbridled joy and love with abandon even when life knocks you down. Which is something everyone needs in 2021.

Thankfully, unlike many memoirs about dogs, Speck is still alive and terrorizing people (and other animals) in Alabama. However, Bragg is careful to mention at the end, tongue-in-cheek, that no cats were harmed in the making of this book.

Reviewed by Cindy Burnett on October 15, 2021

The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People
by Rick Bragg

  • Publication Date: September 21, 2021
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0525658815
  • ISBN-13: 9780525658818