With a breath-catching, lyrical grace, yet enough focus to avoid sentiment, Caldwell lays down the path her life has taken ... The friends and lovers she spent time with along the way are vividly here as well, for better and for worse. Date rape, an abortion and a long love affair with alcohol run right alongside the things that have sustained and inspired her ... What makes Caldwell’s memoir so much more than a skillful retelling is the way she balances her long past with visits from her present-day neighbor’s child, Tyler. When they meet, the 5-year-old falls in love with Caldwell’s beloved Samoyed dog, Tula. Over the years, that love comes to encapsulate all three of them—the writer helping along the little girl’s imagination, Tyler flashing the fearless self-awareness she seems to have been born with, and Tula blessing them both with her steadfast company.
Reading Caldwell is like sitting down over tea and cookies with a close friend, only to realize several hours later that together you've devoured the whole plateful and dinnertime has come and gone. She clearly had a lot on her mind while writing Bright Precious Thing. This fourth memoir, while not as powerful as her paean to her lost soul mate, writer Caroline Knapp, is both timeless and timely ... Unfortunately, Bright Precious Thing loses steam partway through. Some of Caldwell's epiphanies feel less than fresh ... But what Caldwell's dowsing tool has found is a life filled with intense friendships, pleasurable exercise (swimming, rowing, walking), a succession of Samoyeds, and a fulfilling second career as a memoirist.
Caldwell is a charming and affable writer, proud yet self-deprecating, thoughtful and witty. Her story, while often painful, is never didactic, preachy or judgmental. The truths of her life are still being revealed to her, even as she is about to enter her 70s ... Biographies of and memoirs by lifelong single women who have taken a nonconventional path through life are relatively rare, and Caldwell does a terrific job of reminding us just how interesting and rewarding such a life can be ... Besides, there is something especially endearing about a memoir that follows a woman from her glamorous, gritty youth as a hellion to a happy, aging woman who dotes on her beloved dogs and revels in life’s smaller pleasures. Hey! That’s how it is, many readers will say ... It’s possible to imagine another memoir from Caldwell as she passes through her 70s and 80s. God willing, she will write to us again.
Though Caldwell was clearly never wired for Stepford life, she superbly demonstrates how the women’s movement was a beacon that led her to fully embrace her equality and autonomy ... One of the unexpected driving forces of the narrative is an ambrosial, 5-year-old girl named Tyler, a neighbor who seems to effortlessly embody the feminist ideals the author has spent decades cultivating ... Caldwell’s fourth memoir sings. It’s a song for the ages, but it sounds especially resonant in the #MeToo era.