Monday, December 28, 2009

Sneaky Pie, Tucker, and Rita Mae

Animal Magnetism: My Life with Creatures Great and Small
by Rita Mae Brown (813.54 BRO Main)

Reviewed by Jeanne

Rita Mae Brown has said that she likes animals better than people, and in these pages it’s easy to see why after reading this book. Inside these pages there’s a whole host of memorable horses, dogs, cats, birds, foxes and—of course—her favorite feline co-author, Sneaky Pie. Each relationship is unique, just as is each animal. Some loved selflessly, some strictly on their own terms, but all taught lessons about life which Ms. Brown recalls in a non-saccharine way.

So it’s only natural that this book, while a biography of sorts, is built around the people and animals that have had the most influence in her life rather than a linear progression. The result is a series of vignettes that move back and forth in time, highlighting events and emotions. Some are moving, some are amusing, some are thought-provoking and a couple are real thigh-slappers. All are told with the sureness of a Southern storyteller who makes you feel as if you’re with a good friend, swapping stories around a fire. She also offers a few tart observations, and passes on some life precepts, such as PopPop’s admonition: “If anyone mistreats your hound, never speak to them again. If they hurt a hound, bide your time but hurt them back.”

Reading this book is more like looking at photos in an album: rather succinct portraits of this dog, that cat or that human and the role he or she played in her life. Actual photographs are included but I would have enjoyed more. The book’s structure lends itself to browsing; it’s so easy to just open the book at any point and read awhile.

Keenly observed and felt but never maudlin, this book will bring a smile of recognition, a chuckle, and a renewed appreciation of the animals (and the people) in our lives.

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