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The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER - From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin', the warmhearted and hilarious story of how his life was transformed by his love for a poorly behaved, half-blind stray dog. Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER - From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin', the warmhearted and hilarious story of how his life was transformed by his love for a poorly behaved, half-blind stray dog. Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he appeared on the ridgeline behind Rick Bragg's house, a starved and half-dead creature, seventy-six pounds of wet hair and poor decisions. Speck arrived in Rick's life at a moment of looming uncertainty. A cancer diagnosis, chemo, kidney failure, and recurring pneumonia had left Rick lethargic and melancholy. Speck helped, and he is helping, still, when he is not peeing on the rose of Sharon. Written with Bragg's inimitable blend of tenderness and sorrow, humor and grit, The Speckled Beauty captures the extraordinary, sustaining devotion between two damaged creatures who need each other to heal.


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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER - From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin', the warmhearted and hilarious story of how his life was transformed by his love for a poorly behaved, half-blind stray dog. Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER - From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin', the warmhearted and hilarious story of how his life was transformed by his love for a poorly behaved, half-blind stray dog. Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he appeared on the ridgeline behind Rick Bragg's house, a starved and half-dead creature, seventy-six pounds of wet hair and poor decisions. Speck arrived in Rick's life at a moment of looming uncertainty. A cancer diagnosis, chemo, kidney failure, and recurring pneumonia had left Rick lethargic and melancholy. Speck helped, and he is helping, still, when he is not peeing on the rose of Sharon. Written with Bragg's inimitable blend of tenderness and sorrow, humor and grit, The Speckled Beauty captures the extraordinary, sustaining devotion between two damaged creatures who need each other to heal.

30 review for The Speckled Beauty: A Dog and His People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Sometimes it takes a dog. Not any particular kind of dog, but a dog that we find, or one that finds us, when one is desperately needed. For Rick Bragg, this was a wild dog, a not well behaved dog, half starved, with injuries and wounds from his rough life. A dog who causes havoc, will not mind, who wants a soft place to land, but not to be owned. A dog who follows his eighty year old mom around the kitchen, waiting for food, a biscuit, a woman who will give this unruly dog the name, Speckled Bea Sometimes it takes a dog. Not any particular kind of dog, but a dog that we find, or one that finds us, when one is desperately needed. For Rick Bragg, this was a wild dog, a not well behaved dog, half starved, with injuries and wounds from his rough life. A dog who causes havoc, will not mind, who wants a soft place to land, but not to be owned. A dog who follows his eighty year old mom around the kitchen, waiting for food, a biscuit, a woman who will give this unruly dog the name, Speckled Beauty. Shortened to Speck. Bragg returns to live with his mother on her small farm, in remission from his cancer and other health issues. This dog will enter his life, providing both a distraction and a meaning to his days. Bragg is a national treasure. His writing, personal, combining so much humor with the sadness that is life at times. His writing always gives me with all the feels, and this book often made me laugh at loud. This dog........... For everyone who has had a pet that made a difference in their lives, this book is for you. I found it simply wonderful. ARC from Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    ’Who wants a perfect dog?' -- Willie Morris As this fourth of Bragg’s memoirs of his family begins, Bragg is back in the county where his mother lives, after several health issues have plagued him - non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pneumonia, heart and kidney failure - he finds himself living in his mother’s basement at the age of sixty. Driving down her quarter mile long, winding driveway which is a tunnel of green, the pines, pasture, and then the deer, hummingbirds and wild turkey create a dreamlike sc ’Who wants a perfect dog?' -- Willie Morris As this fourth of Bragg’s memoirs of his family begins, Bragg is back in the county where his mother lives, after several health issues have plagued him - non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pneumonia, heart and kidney failure - he finds himself living in his mother’s basement at the age of sixty. Driving down her quarter mile long, winding driveway which is a tunnel of green, the pines, pasture, and then the deer, hummingbirds and wild turkey create a dreamlike scene that could almost lull you into believing the world was always so peaceful. And then, the moment is broken when he, a half-blind, 76-pound illegitimate Australian shepherd dog of unknown origin with mismatched eyes who is prone to falling asleep in his dog bowl, rushes in to shatter the idyllic moment. The Speckled Beauty is about this untrained and unruly abandoned dog, who enters his life unexpectedly, and seems to greet Bragg anew every day, as though he can’t believe his good luck in finding him again. A human that is kind and willing to feed and care for him. In return, Speck will come to offer him not only sweetly comedic moments - his unbridled joy chasing creatures on his mother’s land, to the irrepressible joy of inhaling Bragg’s mother’s biscuits that she tosses his way - and unconditional love, as well. The rescuer is rescued in return by the unquestioning love he receives, in spite of his initial reservations. There’s more to this story, of course, COVID is a background theme, how it has impacted this part of the country, along with health concerns for both Speck and his other family members. This is a memoir set in a time of upheaval and isolation, but it is also a story of love, a love of home and family, a love for this dog who, despite the hardships he’s endured prior to entering their lives, loves with abandon. The lessons Speck teaches them all, and the unbridled joy he shares will become a part of them, as well. Pub Date: 21 Sep 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Random House / Knopf

  3. 5 out of 5

    Holly R W

    "The Speckled Beauty" is Rick Bragg's affectionate ode to his dog. "Speck," as he is called for short, is one hot mess of a dog. He is fiercely wild, being used to living free. At times, Speck lives with other dogs for company and at other times, he lives on his own. Still, Speck is attracted to Bragg's home, mainly due to the food he sees. After all, Speck sees an old woman (Bragg's mother) who religiously throws biscuits into the air twice a day for the other stray dogs who have found a home i "The Speckled Beauty" is Rick Bragg's affectionate ode to his dog. "Speck," as he is called for short, is one hot mess of a dog. He is fiercely wild, being used to living free. At times, Speck lives with other dogs for company and at other times, he lives on his own. Still, Speck is attracted to Bragg's home, mainly due to the food he sees. After all, Speck sees an old woman (Bragg's mother) who religiously throws biscuits into the air twice a day for the other stray dogs who have found a home in her pasture. Momma disdains commercial dog food and cooks real dishes for the family's dogs. Bragg takes Speck in, saving his life more than once. The dog is forever getting hurt by entering into fights with other animals (dogs, cats, snakes, mules - all are fair game). As is the way with rescues, it is hard to say who rescues whom. At the time that Speck entered Bragg's life, the author had been battling non-hodgkins lymphoma and is at a low point. And Speck would have surely died had it not been for Bragg stepping in. Anyone who has loved a dog can understand the bond between them. The author wrote: I guess the truth is that he does not truly ask for much in return. He just wants some people of his own, and some snacks, because a dog gets used to things like that... He wants a place to lie, a place outside where he can hear and smell the mountain as he closes his eyes, and wants a booger to battle deep in the black trees. And he wants someone to let him in, when the thunder shakes the mountain, when the lightning flash reveals that he was just a dog all this time, just a dog after all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    I am a big Rick Bragg fan, and this book is a perfect example of why. He takes a book about a dog and uses it as a framework to write about family, growing older, and life in the South. The dog, Speck, is a trouble maker and a nuisance to just about every creature he comes in contact with. But, even as Bragg writes about all the ways Speck has almost gotten him killed or been a bother to him, his affection for his four-legged friend is easy to see. Forgive me for saying so, but I’m not really an I am a big Rick Bragg fan, and this book is a perfect example of why. He takes a book about a dog and uses it as a framework to write about family, growing older, and life in the South. The dog, Speck, is a trouble maker and a nuisance to just about every creature he comes in contact with. But, even as Bragg writes about all the ways Speck has almost gotten him killed or been a bother to him, his affection for his four-legged friend is easy to see. Forgive me for saying so, but I’m not really an animal person, so I wasn’t sure if I would like this as much as some of Bragg’s previous works. But as he wrote about his family, and particularly his brother Sam, his simple yet beautiful prose won me over yet again. The misadventures with the dog will bring laughter, but what those tales bring out in the humans around him will warm your heart. If you’re already a dog lover, you will find much to love about this book. But even if you’re not, you might be surprised how much humanity can be found in a book about a dog. Thank you to Netgalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing for the advanced review copy. All opinions are my own. The Speckled Beauty releases on September 21, 2021.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tracie

    Author Rick Bragg grew up and currently lives in rural Alabama. He recently was ill with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lives with his mother and near one of his brothers and sister-in-law. Into his life slowly comes a stray, mostly Australian Shepherd, a large dog with one bad eye and sketchy hearing. They already have two other stray dogs, many cats and even some donkeys, but "Speck" eventually wins his way into everyone's heart. Bragg also takes the reader through the seasons in Alabama and the w Author Rick Bragg grew up and currently lives in rural Alabama. He recently was ill with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lives with his mother and near one of his brothers and sister-in-law. Into his life slowly comes a stray, mostly Australian Shepherd, a large dog with one bad eye and sketchy hearing. They already have two other stray dogs, many cats and even some donkeys, but "Speck" eventually wins his way into everyone's heart. Bragg also takes the reader through the seasons in Alabama and the wildlife there and his family life over the last few years. This is a lovely book to read on a Sunday afternoon at home with the pawed ones you share your life with beside you. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dana A. O'Dea

    4.5 stars. Rick Bragg’s tales of the south and his family never fail to charm me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Frosty61

    Thoroughly enjoyable to read, this story about a dog and his people packs a lot of emotion. The focus isn't just on the relationship between the author and his dog. We learn about his Southern roots, the Southern culture, and his family. At its core, the story deals with life's challenges (mental health, aging, illness, isolation) and the saving grace of love no matter the source. I needed a few tissues during this one. Spoiler ahead: Thank you to the author for writing a dog book where the dog d Thoroughly enjoyable to read, this story about a dog and his people packs a lot of emotion. The focus isn't just on the relationship between the author and his dog. We learn about his Southern roots, the Southern culture, and his family. At its core, the story deals with life's challenges (mental health, aging, illness, isolation) and the saving grace of love no matter the source. I needed a few tissues during this one. Spoiler ahead: Thank you to the author for writing a dog book where the dog doesn't die at the end - a rare feat. :-) Quotes: "I have always resented gung-ho people who say, When you get knocked down, pick yourself right back up. I think a young person made that up. Sometimes...it is better to stay down awhile..." "He is just something that happened to us, in a time of loss and sadness and sickness and uncertainty, when, as the boy Little Arliss said in Old Yeller, we needed us a dog."

  8. 4 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    Recouping from a plethora of ailments, Bragg finds himself inhabiting his momma’s basement in the Alabama mountains. The Braggs, he explains, are a family of dog lovers and stray rescuers. One day, an emaciated Australian Shepherd happens upon their land and stays. He’s a “terrible” dog. Turns out, Speck and Bragg are just what the other needed. Dog love is its own special kind. Loved this! Bragg is solidly one of my favorites.

  9. 5 out of 5

    samantha vogel-Hespos

    A beautiful written story from about the love between man vs dog. He never gave up on his rescue dog. And they bought taught each other lift lessons. A must read!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Speck is a stray dog who is accustomed to living in the wild with other dogs, but unlike most of those other dogs Speck is rescued by a family who loves him despite his rambunctiousness. The author makes his Southern home come alive with all its beauty and eccentricities. While the author struggles with health challenges, his love for Speck shines through. As someone who believes dogs should live indoors, I sometimes found myself struggling with the hard life Speck had endured and that he never Speck is a stray dog who is accustomed to living in the wild with other dogs, but unlike most of those other dogs Speck is rescued by a family who loves him despite his rambunctiousness. The author makes his Southern home come alive with all its beauty and eccentricities. While the author struggles with health challenges, his love for Speck shines through. As someone who believes dogs should live indoors, I sometimes found myself struggling with the hard life Speck had endured and that he never became an indoor companion. I worried that he would be killed on a number of occasions in the book. Nevertheless, he was taken to the vet and clearly loved by the author and his family. I enjoyed reading about Speck's growth and particularly how his relationship with the donkeys changed over time. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a galley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mardi

    I grew up in the American South with a father who had a strict shoot it or feed it policy when it came to strays. Mostly he fed them. That's how we ended up with a spanielesque creature of indeterminant origin named Kindness. Our neighbor's mom died and Dad sent the dog to live with him and he said she was just what he needed. Anyway, I developed, at that young age, the belief that the Universe sends you the support you need when you needed it most and quite often in the form of a four-legged, f I grew up in the American South with a father who had a strict shoot it or feed it policy when it came to strays. Mostly he fed them. That's how we ended up with a spanielesque creature of indeterminant origin named Kindness. Our neighbor's mom died and Dad sent the dog to live with him and he said she was just what he needed. Anyway, I developed, at that young age, the belief that the Universe sends you the support you need when you needed it most and quite often in the form of a four-legged, furry thing that will be enough trouble to distract you from what would otherwise be overwhelming personal mess. Don't tell them, but my dad and my brother will probably get this book for Christmas. You don't have to have read Bragg's other books to enjoy this one. As a librarian, I'll recommend it to every patron who loves rescue pet stories and bad dog stories. But my Rick Bragg readers are already lined up for this one and they won't be disappointed!.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    If you follow my reviews, especially those of southern writers, you know that to me it is all about the voice, and wow what a voice Mr. Bragg has. This is not a new discovery for me — I have savored his voice through All Over But the Shoutin’ to Ava’s Man to The Most They Ever Had to Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as in a host of magazine articles — but few pleasures in life are as sweet as rediscovering the beauty of Rick Bragg’s voice over and over again, especially when he writes about the place he If you follow my reviews, especially those of southern writers, you know that to me it is all about the voice, and wow what a voice Mr. Bragg has. This is not a new discovery for me — I have savored his voice through All Over But the Shoutin’ to Ava’s Man to The Most They Ever Had to Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as in a host of magazine articles — but few pleasures in life are as sweet as rediscovering the beauty of Rick Bragg’s voice over and over again, especially when he writes about the place he is from and, in this case, to which he has recently returned. You will laugh out loud at some portions and be moved to tears by others. My wife had planned to read this book after me but I’m afraid that by the time I finished plaguing her with “hon, I just have to read you this paragraph (or page or chapter)” I have left her little to discover on her own. Therefore, as much as I would love to share some of the great lines from this book with you, I consider doing so as spoilers, not because doing they would reveal some crucial plot twist but because it would deprive you of the pleasure of discovering his rhetorical gems on your own. While this book is ostensibly about a dog, it is about so much more. And you don’t have to like dogs at all in order to still love this book; all you have to do is appreciate good writing and a story well-told. Having said that, dog lovers will feel a special fondness for this book because they will recognize in it the power a dog can have to change one’s life and to bring healing in a wide variety of ways. This book is a very quick read and also serves as way to venture down the more recent miles of Bragg’s autobiographical path. In short, go get this book and read it. I’m certain you’ll be glad you did.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Belle

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a delightful addition to the Rick Bragg library! I suspect it was all the more enjoyable on account of my own Speckled Beauty, going by the name Archie. I was right there with him as he admitted Speck was likely too much dog for him just as Archie is for me. My husband is certain he’s going to pull me right over on a walk just like everyone warns Rick that Speck better not knock momma over. Right there with him when he admits beauty is not Speck’s problem. Archie is beautiful and terrible to What a delightful addition to the Rick Bragg library! I suspect it was all the more enjoyable on account of my own Speckled Beauty, going by the name Archie. I was right there with him as he admitted Speck was likely too much dog for him just as Archie is for me. My husband is certain he’s going to pull me right over on a walk just like everyone warns Rick that Speck better not knock momma over. Right there with him when he admits beauty is not Speck’s problem. Archie is beautiful and terrible too. But also right there with him when Speck bumps his arm to put his head just in the right place for petting and also when he falls asleep on his feet. Because in the end this is an ode to all the dogs who have walked their people through this plague, got us out for walks, let us talk to them world on end because we were just a little lonely, kept us company in sickness, and gave us a reason to rise and greet another day. Thank you God for the Speckled Beauty. Thank you God for Archie, my very own Speckled Beauty.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Long

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. I'm an advocate for rescue dogs so this book was instantly appealing to me. Speck is a funny, mischievous, "bad" dog who chose Rick Bragg as his human and in turn, rescued Bragg as well. Speck is definitely a wild child and gets into a lot of spats, had been through unimaginable events unknown to anyone but him, and somehow survived it all. I highly recommend this book to animal lovers and especially Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. I'm an advocate for rescue dogs so this book was instantly appealing to me. Speck is a funny, mischievous, "bad" dog who chose Rick Bragg as his human and in turn, rescued Bragg as well. Speck is definitely a wild child and gets into a lot of spats, had been through unimaginable events unknown to anyone but him, and somehow survived it all. I highly recommend this book to animal lovers and especially those who have a big heart for rescue dogs.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    What is a "good dog"? And who has not wanted one? Don't we set certain standards as desirable when considering a dog for our household? And don't we begin to train our dogs to those standards immediately, upon arrival? And aren't those standards similar to those we would set for any potential member of our family? And when the newcomer meets the standards -- good table manners, not attacking visitors, appropriate toilet habits -- is he/she not certified as a "good dog" and given favor as a "fur What is a "good dog"? And who has not wanted one? Don't we set certain standards as desirable when considering a dog for our household? And don't we begin to train our dogs to those standards immediately, upon arrival? And aren't those standards similar to those we would set for any potential member of our family? And when the newcomer meets the standards -- good table manners, not attacking visitors, appropriate toilet habits -- is he/she not certified as a "good dog" and given favor as a "fur baby", companion, and/or confidant. Rick Bragg does not write about a "good" dog in his latest book. He introduces us to an "incorrigible, irredeemable, car-chasing, cat-wrangling, donkey-shit-driving, carcass-dragging, Fed Ex-blocking, bacon-hogging nimrod", one who insists on being totally himself and drags us, along with all the other detritus he picks up on his misadventures, straight home. Still, despite all of our inclinations to the contrary, we are moved to love this creature and to acknowledge his value as a dog rather than a reflection of ourselves. We are able to see him more clearly. Credit here belongs to Rick Bragg and we must admit that he has done it before. His stories have brought us face-to-face with our own less-than-better angels and portrayed us as human with all of our faults and foibles. We have been able to love those whom he portrays, and through them, ourselves, because he writes with an obvious sincerity and understanding of the human condition. Why would he not do the same with a "bad" dog named Speck? I will never willingly give up my "good" dog, our sweet-natured Shih Tzu named Malone. But this book has given me the ability to see all the "bad" dogs out there with new eyes, and to appreciate their determination to be not good, not bad, but completely and unalterably canine.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Maryl

    This may be the best book I’ve ever read, certainly my best dog book. Over my lifetime I’ve had at least 50 dogs, maybe more. I’ve tried to count them without success. They’ve brought so much happiness, so much heartbreak. Rick Bragg’s THE SPECKLED BEAUTY is, in my opinion, an opera of all the feelings one experiences from rescue dogs. They rescued me too, even when they break my heart.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana Mack

    Speck is the dog who was abandoned, dumped, run over. The pack he ran with..not good. Than Rick Bragg decided it was time for a dog. I love Rick Bragg. A good old Southern boy. Not pretending to be anything that he isnt and telling stories that just beg you to be in a rocking chair, chewing on a piece of straw, while youre listening. Speck is insane. Afraid of thunder and live guns, not the guns on tv. Snakes, cats, donkeys..all toys. As are red tractors and cars. Still..he wins over Rick. Rick's Speck is the dog who was abandoned, dumped, run over. The pack he ran with..not good. Than Rick Bragg decided it was time for a dog. I love Rick Bragg. A good old Southern boy. Not pretending to be anything that he isnt and telling stories that just beg you to be in a rocking chair, chewing on a piece of straw, while youre listening. Speck is insane. Afraid of thunder and live guns, not the guns on tv. Snakes, cats, donkeys..all toys. As are red tractors and cars. Still..he wins over Rick. Rick's mother. Rick's brother. He is a great friend as life starts dealing the Bragg family some nasty cards. Just another great story that just left me smiling. And...throwing a prayer up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Margecaldera

    I am a sucker for dog stories but it’s about more than a dog. It’s also about home and family.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Loved this book! Highly recommend it to my sister Deena.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    I loved this book, The Speckled Beauty! Rick Bragg is just one of my favorite writers! He seems to write from his heart! I love his style and the great portrayal of the South! This book was a Beauty! Thank you for your wonderful stories and your marvelous books! Reading your creations is such a delightful joy!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janet Graham

    Meh! An Unvarnished Look at an Unvarnished Dog This book is exactly as advertised. I was expecting more humor and less grit. I did enjoy that the dog did what he wanted when he wanted. Mostly, he used the people as his tools. The people came across as stuck in their rural ruts of 'If it was good enough for Great Great Grandmawmaw, it should be good enough for you.' I am a rural person, but not a Southerner by any means. In that way, I just don't get it. I wanted more dog story, less sad people sto Meh! An Unvarnished Look at an Unvarnished Dog This book is exactly as advertised. I was expecting more humor and less grit. I did enjoy that the dog did what he wanted when he wanted. Mostly, he used the people as his tools. The people came across as stuck in their rural ruts of 'If it was good enough for Great Great Grandmawmaw, it should be good enough for you.' I am a rural person, but not a Southerner by any means. In that way, I just don't get it. I wanted more dog story, less sad people story. I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Crowe

    There are no adequate accolades for this latest offering by our southern treasure, Ruck Bragg. A wonderful read about Speck, Rick’s unruly but devoted dog. You gotta read it!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    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 lympho 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. 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

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen M

    If ever a book was meant for me to read, well, this certainly was it. My own life was ruled by a loving Shetland Sheepdog who never believed for one moment that she was not a human just like the rest of her family. This lovely book is about Speck and his family. Speck was a stray who came into the lives of Rick Bragg and his family. Sometimes there is just something about a dog that makes them special to you but maybe not so much to everyone else and yet, in time, they do become special to everyo If ever a book was meant for me to read, well, this certainly was it. My own life was ruled by a loving Shetland Sheepdog who never believed for one moment that she was not a human just like the rest of her family. This lovely book is about Speck and his family. Speck was a stray who came into the lives of Rick Bragg and his family. Sometimes there is just something about a dog that makes them special to you but maybe not so much to everyone else and yet, in time, they do become special to everyone who they welcome into their family. That dog is Speck. Wild and free and forget obedient, Speck is the self-appointed protector of their small farm where Rick and his Mother live. Speck chases wild creatures and domestic pets as well. Cats quickly learn to head for the trees and the mule and donkeys chase around the corral and attempt to kick Speck clean off the farm. He has no manners. He will eat the cat food, the food for the other two dogs and even the mule’s food and then will roll in anything no matter how smelly but when Rick sits on the steps or walks down the drive, who is right there next to him, Speck. This beautifully written chapter in Rick Bragg’s life is just such a pleasure to read and enjoy. I laughed out loud so many times I’m sure my condo neighbors assumed I had company. Here and there a tear welled but then Rick would relate another story about Speck and I’d be smiling again. This book is not just about Speck but about Rick Bragg’s Mother and brother, Sam and Rick and Skinny and Puppy, their other two dogs. This book is about a family. I won this ARC in a First Reads giveaway. Thank you to Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, LLC and the author Rick Bragg (and his family too).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Speckled Beauty is a beautifully written memoir by Rick Bragg of his life in the aftermath of a lymphoma diagnosis and the life changing entry of a badly behaved injured dog into his life. Released 21st Sept 2021 by Knopf Doubleday, it's 256 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. The Speckled Beauty is a beautifully written memoir by Rick Bragg of his life in the aftermath of a lymphoma diagnosis and the life changing entry of a badly behaved injured dog into his life. Released 21st Sept 2021 by Knopf Doubleday, it's 256 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. This is a touchingly honest and really engaging memoir about a guy and his dog. Life isn't always perfect but it can be wonderful despite everything. Speck isn't a perfect dog (far from it, he pees on flowers, goes where he shouldn't, destroys things with wild abandon, drags revoltingly smelly deceased wildlife onto the porch, rolls in poop, makes messes, and howls at all hours). He and Bragg found one another and managed to redeem one another in profound ways. Throughout the reminiscences and funny stories, the lyrical prose is shining and lush. This is a gorgeously written book full of beautifully turned phrases. Definitely a solid pick for library acquisition and fans of memoir. This would also be a great choice for readers who love rescue stories and pet memoirs. This is a book readers will want to revisit. Five stars. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    An absolute delight! A tale of a terrible-good dog, and a healing companion, all rolled into one “Speckled Beauty.” This is that story and also one of Rick’s family. I haven’t read Rick’s work in several years since I had to relinquish my SL subscription, but each month I always looked forward to Rick’s column on the last page. I could immerse myself, for a few brief minutes, in his soul-enlightening southern tales of His People, and it always brought cheers and/or tears.  My own people are also An absolute delight! A tale of a terrible-good dog, and a healing companion, all rolled into one “Speckled Beauty.” This is that story and also one of Rick’s family. I haven’t read Rick’s work in several years since I had to relinquish my SL subscription, but each month I always looked forward to Rick’s column on the last page. I could immerse myself, for a few brief minutes, in his soul-enlightening southern tales of His People, and it always brought cheers and/or tears.  My own people are also from the rural South - Georgia and South Carolina. Born and raised like their families before them to plow fields behind mules, pick cotton, and work in the mills; raise crops and raise families to raise the crops.  There weren’t really any “pets,” just critters that served some life-sustaining purpose. Thank goodness Rick chooses to make a ‘pet’ out of Speck rather than see him end-up in the heart-breaking way of so many strays abandoned along a country road. People and critters come into our lives for a reason and should be embraced, as much as possible, especially when they’re terrible-good.  Many blessings to the Bragg family – every important one of you because we have all come to know, and love you, through Rick’s writings.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Elswick

    There is no book like a Rick Bragg book! I always get his books on audible because he reads them in that smooth voice that goes up and down like the rolling hills he writes about. To say I loved this book would be an understatement. This book made me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same chapter, but it did more than that - it made me remember every pet I've ever had, every wag of their tails and licks in the face! This book is bittersweet because the life of pet owner can be hard. It can be tryi There is no book like a Rick Bragg book! I always get his books on audible because he reads them in that smooth voice that goes up and down like the rolling hills he writes about. To say I loved this book would be an understatement. This book made me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same chapter, but it did more than that - it made me remember every pet I've ever had, every wag of their tails and licks in the face! This book is bittersweet because the life of pet owner can be hard. It can be trying to tame a dog like Speck who gave him all his love but tormented him every step of the way! This book is about loving those "throw away" dogs only to lose them too soon. It's about how sometimes no matter how hard we try to give them a home and make them feel loved it's an uphill battle. But it's about loving them no matter what. This book is not about what Bragg did for Speck, but what Speck did for him! And not just him, but his brother, Sam, and his mother, who lovingly fed Speck buttered biscuits for a snack. Bragg reveals his battle with cancer and depression, how the pandemic changed us all, and how Speck gave him a reason to go on - to live and love a Speckled Beauty.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan Smith

    "Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he appeared on the ridgeline behind Rick Bragg's house, a starved and half-dead creature, seventy-six pounds of wet hair and poor decisions. Speck arrived i "Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he appeared on the ridgeline behind Rick Bragg's house, a starved and half-dead creature, seventy-six pounds of wet hair and poor decisions. Speck arrived in Rick's life at a moment of looming uncertainty. A cancer diagnosis, chemo, kidney failure, and recurring pneumonia had left Rick lethargic and melancholy. Speck helped, and he is helping, still, when he is not peeing on the rose of Sharon. Written with Bragg's inimitable blend of tenderness and sorrow, humor and grit, The Speckled Beauty captures the extraordinary, sustaining devotion between two damaged creatures who need each other to heal." nothing I could write about this book would give it the justice it needs... It is an outstanding story of two lives that came together.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Burd

    What happens when a man, beaten down by cancer and other illnesses, finds a bad dog--blind, two ravaged ears, so stupid he tries to herd a mule that kicks him across the yard, and that just can't be tamed of his wild spirit? Rick Bragg has written a wonderful story of the relationship between his family and this bad dog whose joy of living is contagious. Bragg provides a glimpse of life in rural Alabama, where dogs run wild and survival is based on fitness and fighting. Yet, Speck survives and t What happens when a man, beaten down by cancer and other illnesses, finds a bad dog--blind, two ravaged ears, so stupid he tries to herd a mule that kicks him across the yard, and that just can't be tamed of his wild spirit? Rick Bragg has written a wonderful story of the relationship between his family and this bad dog whose joy of living is contagious. Bragg provides a glimpse of life in rural Alabama, where dogs run wild and survival is based on fitness and fighting. Yet, Speck survives and thrives in this environment even as he befriends Bragg and becomes the families' comforter in times of trouble. You'll laugh at Speck's antics and cry over his trials. But mostly, you'll be amazed and heartened as Speck becomes part of this family and provides the love and affection that only a dog can give. Highly recommended for all animal lovers. A delightful, heartwarming, and soul heartening story.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Koren

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Rick Bragg is one of the few authors that I will pre-order his books as soon as I hear he has a new one coming. I love his easy, lyrical way of writing and will at some point get all of his books in audio format just to hear his voice. While I don't think this will be my favorite book by him, it still warms my heart for the love he has for this poor, stray dog that he took under his wing. Few people would adopt such a dog, let alone fall in love with it and I love that (spoiler alert!) the dog d Rick Bragg is one of the few authors that I will pre-order his books as soon as I hear he has a new one coming. I love his easy, lyrical way of writing and will at some point get all of his books in audio format just to hear his voice. While I don't think this will be my favorite book by him, it still warms my heart for the love he has for this poor, stray dog that he took under his wing. Few people would adopt such a dog, let alone fall in love with it and I love that (spoiler alert!) the dog does not die in the end. I was also set for the brother to die but I was glad he didn't. One thing I kept wondering about through the entire book was what happened to his wife and step-son. In the book he is living with his mother. He previously published a book that was entirely about his relationship with his step-son and there is no mention of him in this book. A google search did not give me any information. Does anyone know!

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