Book review: 'The Speckled Beauty' a beautiful, poignant tale of a dog and his people –

The Speckled Beauty
I have three pretty destructive dogs at home, and so I thought I understood when Rick Bragg, author of the new memoir, “The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and his People, Lost and Found,” began to tell a story about his “bad” dog. But this dog is more destructive than my dogs combined, and yet the dog, named The Speckled Beauty and called “Speck” for short, will quickly grow on you.
Set on a farm in Alabama, this poignant and heartfelt memoir begins with a funny prologue detailing Speck’s faults. We soon discover that, since he spent most of his life up to his rescue as a stray, Speck has trouble adjusting to his new life. And though he is quite a “bad” dog, he is the source of many comedic moments. He quite frequently commits whole lists of transgressions, and yet the family grows very attached to him.
As Speck begins to acclimate to life on the farm, Bragg also tells the story of his family and their struggles. As each member deals with their own obstacles, Speck begins a beautiful transformation. Though it seems he will never fully lose his wildness, Speck shows an astounding capacity for empathy.
I knew from the beginning that I would love “The Speckled Beauty,” but I did not realize just how much. Once I began this memoir, I did not want to put it down. Though Speck is the center of the story, Bragg’s compassionate portraits of his family members made me love them all. As the family grows and changes, so too does Speck, and Bragg creates a profoundly moving tableau.
Bragg is a good writer; his voice is wise and down to earth. The simple pared-down approach made for a quick and light, but also intensely emotional book, and I came away from it feeling as though I had learned something profound, not just about a man and his dog, but also about life itself. And while this memoir is ostensibly about a dog, it is also a story about love, healing, growth and redemption. If you love dogs as I do, I am sure this sometimes sad but ultimately uplifting memoir will stay with you long after the final page is turned.
Ashley Riggleson is a freelance reviewer from Rappahannock County.
THE SPECKLED BEAUTY: A Dog and His People, Lost and Found
By Rick Bragg
(Alfred A. Knopf, $26, 256 pages)
Published: Sept. 21, 2021
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The Speckled Beauty
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