My Family's Love Affair with Thirty-Eight Dalmatians

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Book Description

The Sexton family’s long love affair with the Dalmatian began in Linda’s childhood. There, on a snowy morning in the family home just outside Boston, LInda heard a whimpering coming from the basement. She discovered their first family dog giving birth to a litter. Witnessing the intimate act of birth had a profound effect on the family. Her mother, Anne, used the experience to complete the poem “Live,” part of her third collection, titled Live or Die , which would be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. For Linda, the boundless joy of both breed and breeding triggered in her a lifelong love of Dalmatians. All told, thirty–eight Dalmatians will move through her life: the ones that cheer and support her through difficulty, divorce, and depression; the ones that stay with her as she enters the world of professional breeding and showing of Dals; and, of course, the one true dog of her heart, Gulliver, her most stalwart of canine champions.

Bespotted is a page–turning and compelling look at the unique place dogs occupy in our lives. It captures another piece of this literary family’s history, taps into the curious and fascinating world of dog showing/dog fancy. Bespotted is an upbeat and commercial memoir by one of the most critically acclaimed memoirists of our time.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for Bespotted

"Bespotted is a delight and a book of wisdom for all those who love dogs and people." —Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying

"Linda Gray Sexton has added a moving and beautiful account to the shelf of books about Dogs & Their Writers. Sexton became besotted — hence her title, Bespotted — with Dalmatians as a child, and her memoir–with–dogs is a chronicle of her deep connection to this specific breed over time...It must have been extremely painful to write some of these passages; to experience and re–experience the shock and the grief of the untimely and unfair endings, the vicissitudes of biology, the love that's given and received in equal measure — here exquisitely re–imagined — between a keeper and each of her dogs." — Los Angeles Review of Books

"Engaging memoir." —San Jose Mercury

"In Bespotted, Linda Gray Sexton slices to the heart of why the dogs in our lives are so beloved. Each Dalmatian who walks onto the page is a character in his or her own right. Bespotted is a love story, an intriguing glimpse into the world of show dogs, and a testament to the special provenance of dogs to guide humans through the darkest moments in our lives. Beautifully written and deeply felt." —Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of Golden State and The Year of Fog

"Dog lovers, rejoice! Linda Sexton turns her literary attention to the beloved Dalmations in her life. Bespotted is part memoir, part love song to dogs, all wonderful." —Ellen Sussman, New York Times bestselling author of A Wedding in Provence and French Lessons

"Bespotted is a brave and wonderful book. The first chapter about the origin of the famous poem by Anne Sexton, "Live," is precious both for the history it recounts with an authenticity nobody else could claim, as well as for its insight into one of the great poems of the language (hint: it is a poem made possible by dogs). Even more importantly it recognizes something that is only now becoming clear: dogs and humans are a single species, a manifestation of a single love, and this book makes that clear in a rare way." —Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love

"As the author eloquently portrays, no other breed suited the Sexton family as well...The bond between an animal and a human can be extremely strong, and Sexton proves this without a doubt. A heartfelt testimony about the importance of dogs, especially Dalmatians, in one woman's life." —Kirkus Reviews

"Animal lovers will adore this emotional and touching story." —Real Simple Magazine

"The inside look at the rarefied environment of dog shows is a fascinating subplot; and the decisions that must be made as well as the mechanics of breeding for show dogs will be eye–opening for many dog lovers. Sexton's paeon to dalmatians, the dogs she feels have genuinely saved her life, will resonate." —Nancy Bent

Praise for Half in Love

"A clear and in–depth portrait of what it is like to attempt to take one's own life and the ghastly legacy such an action leaves the bereaved family. For anyone who wishes to understand what drives a person to kill himself or herself, Half in Love brings a deeper understanding of the illness than anything short of feeling the urge to commit suicide oneself." —American Psychological Association Review of Books

"A welcome personal look at the specter that haunts many families, in which a parent's suicide can threaten the mental health of descendants." —Booklist

"In a country where someone commits suicide every seventeen minutes, where bipolar disorder is rampant and poorly understood, Linda Sexton's beautiful book is a cry for health and sanity. It will bring hope and understanding because it explains the way suicide blights families from generation to generation." —Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying

"In her new memoir, Linda Sexton completes the circle opened up with her stunning memoir, Searching for Mercy Street—but this time, the woman whose torment she explores is not her mother, but herself, and where her mother's story ended with despair, hers is one of survival. With brutal honesty and total lack of self–pity or sentimentality, Linda Sexton has dared to explore a subject more taboo than almost any other: not only suicide, but what comes after, for its survivors. This is a book that will speak to anyone touched by the suicide of someone we knew or loved—as so many of us have been." —Joyce Maynard, author of At Home in the World and To Die For

"Half in Love is a gripping account of the legacy left by a mother's suicide and an eloquent testament to a daughter's struggle to wrench herself free of the damage left in the wake of turmoil. Linda Sexton's determination to forge an identity independent of suicide and destruction is powerful; her book is a vivid and inspiring story of living through despair and coming out the stronger for it." —Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind, and Professor of Psychiatry, John Hopkins School of Medicine

"Linda Sexton is one hell of a brave writer. In her memoir, she takes us on a harrowing journey, to the edge of death and then beyond, to a new, safe place. She's now able to tell her story about the entanglement with her mother's legacy—‘half in love with easeful death.' It's a story that will reach deep into many readers' hearts. She makes the telling of this tale an act of grace, of art, of redemption." —Ellen Sussman, author of On a Night Like This and the upcoming French Lessons

"This is an exquisitely crafted story that needs to be told: how depression and suicide can be passed down through the generations. The most loving, committed mother can suffer such intense pain that all reason is blacked out and death seems the only answer. Linda Sexton is unsparing in her honesty and unfailing in her eloquence as she takes us from the descent to hell to the miracle of recovery. After a siege of courting death, she comes to fall wholly in love with life." —Sara Davidson, author of Leap! and Loose Change

"Once again, Sexton has pulled off something truly remarkable—in prose that is both graceful and raw she crafts powerful scenes that vibrate with authenticity. I cannot recall a more riveting description of a nearly lethal suicide attempt. The suspense leaps off the pages, pages which the reader is now turning furiously. Also powerful is her deep understanding of how suicide permanently impacts the family through multiple generations and her descriptions of self–stigmatization, which, by the way, belong in mental health curricula." —Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, George Washington University, Former Director of the National Institute of Mental Health

"Half in Love is a testament to the potentially mortal wounds that suicide inflicts upon the living. Linda Gray Sexton has transformed her emotional suffering into a memoir of stunning intimacy. Wise, insightful, and unflinchingly honest, Sexton mines the depths of the darkest despair and ultimately her own salvation. This is a masterful work, beautifully written, by a brave soul of remarkable talent." —James Brown, author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

Praise for Searching for Mercy Street

"Powerful and affecting . . . a candid, often painful, depiction of a daughter's struggles to come to terms with her powerful and emotionally troubled mother. Sexton writes with compelling urgency and candor and has not tried to gloss over the difficulties of their relationship or resolve the ambivalence of her own emotions. Rather, she has set all these conflicts down on paper, leaving us with a disturbing portrait or a mercurial, impossible, and magnetic woman." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A courageous journey into the dark terrain of remembering, forgiving and healing through telling—a trait that is her birthright." —People

"One never doubts that Linda Gray Sexton has told us the truth . . . Her writing is at its best: lean, quick, tightly conceived . . . The book almost reeks of authenticity. Searching for Mercy Street is never less than fascinating." —The New York Times Book Review

"This memoir has an urgency about it and it is to Sexton's credit as an honest and largely unself–serving narrator that throughout she has chosen to forgo the primitive gratification of scrawling over the picture of her childish mother–worship with fat black crayon; instead she continues to add strokes of color and lightness to an ever–darkening portrait. By the book's end she has made her way valiantly back to her mother, passing through the portals of rage and despair before she glimpses the possibility of separating out Anne Sexton's perverse influence from her legacy of delight in words and experience . . . Searching for Mercy Street is suffused with a complicated kind of love." —Daphne Merkin, The New Yorker

"In this spectacular story of a glamorous, talented and beautiful family veering toward disaster, Linda Sexton has broken the code of silence which often surrounds the American home. In her powerful and graceful prose, honed in four novels of her own, she has quietly and lovingly told the story of her mother and the family she loved both too much and too little. Any mother or daughter, any child of an alcoholic parent, anyone who has lived with the all–consuming obsession of a writer with their work, will recognize themselves in this ravishing portrait." —Susan Cheever

"In this deft, beautiful memoir, Sexton covers difficult family territory with unique grace." —New York Daily News

"Sexton has written about intense personal conflicts, evoked strong emotion, and stayed true to it. The saga of this daughter and her mother is inherently fascinating." —Chicago Tribune

"One of the most illuminating things here is that careful, industrious Linda—who, as she grows older, bravely fights off her own depressions, headaches, even suicidal thoughts, idolizing ‘normalcy', health, and domestic responsibility—seems a far better writer than her mom." —Carolyn See, The Washington Post Book World

"Linda Gray Sexton's exploration is so smart, so well–written, moving, and generous that it transcends the typecasting that could easily have become a trap . . . Written with grace, precision and, most important, love." —Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Heroic." —New York Newsday

"This cathartic and anguish–filled book spares no details of the mother's selfish and difficult personality or her intense and fortifying love." —Library Journal

"In deceptively fluid prose, Linda explores her complex relationship to her mother and strips raw the nerves of a troubled family." —Kirkus (starred review)