A Three Dog Life
  • A Three Dog Life
  • A Three Dog Life

A Three Dog Life

3.8 88
by Abigail Thomas
     
 

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"[A] spare, astonishing memoir. A. ”—Entertainment Weekly

 

When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his skull was shattered, his brain severely damaged. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he was sent to live in a nursing facility that specializes in treating traumatic brain injuries. He had

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Overview

"[A] spare, astonishing memoir. A. ”—Entertainment Weekly

 

When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his skull was shattered, his brain severely damaged. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he was sent to live in a nursing facility that specializes in treating traumatic brain injuries. He had no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life. How she built that life is a story of great courage and change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude. It is also about her relationship with Rich, a man who lived in the eternal present, and the eerie poetry of his often uncanny perceptions. This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail has discovered in the years since the accident: You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.

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Editorial Reviews

Suki Casanave
Structured in a series of vignettes, her memoir is strung together with threads of lilting prose and keen observation…For Thomas, it seems, the act of writing itself has become an act of redemption. From the depths of catastrophe, she has crafted a painfully honest and loving portrait of the irrevocably altered life she finds herself leading. The stories are few, the moments are spare, but what Thomas tells us is shot through with light.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Stephen King's front-cover endorsement of Thomas's memoir as the best he's ever readand a "punch to the heart"will surely pique interest in this wrenching, elegiac portrait of her third husband, Rich, who flounders in a miasmic present after a hit-and-run in their Manhattan neighborhood shatters his skull, destroys his short-term memory and consigns him to permanent brain trauma. A deft balance of fevered pathos and dark humor link this memoir, in spirit and theme, to Safekeeping, Thomas's collected vignettes that memorialize her second husband. But Thomas also finds wellsprings of inspiration in her tragicomic interactions with Rich and in the self-reliance she's forced to develop, aided by her faithful dogs (the book's title adapts an aboriginal phrase, derived from the tradition of cuddling with dogs on frigid nights). Richhimself reminiscent of a Stephen King eccentricutters eerily prescient, absurdly poetic non sequiturs, probing the essence of time and love with ingenuous intuition, though his acute paranoia and confusion make these exchanges truly heartbreaking. Thomas's quick-cutting chronology and confessional narration subtly re-enacts the soupiness of her husband's mind, even as she quietly thanks him for the wisdom of living in the present. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Vanity Fair

"Thomas...fac[es] reality with courage, bursts of anger, patience, and dark humor. What resonates most, though, is her generosity..."

— Elissa Schappell

Entertainment Weekly

"Thomas tells an extraordinary, but horrific, love story."

— Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

LA Times

"Resounding...the clarity is stunning."

— Susan Salter Reynolds

Time Out NY

"Here, love can''t exactly conquer all, but it assumes radically new, stunning shapes."

— Justin W. Ravitz

Newsday

"Illuminates a new life built on tragedy but not tragic."

— Judith Long

Kirkus Reviews
Fiction-writer Thomas (An Actual Life, 1996, etc.) examines the challenges confronted after a tragic accident forced her to remake her life. The author was in her late 50s when her husband was struck by a car and suffered a head injury that severely damaged his brain. At times delusional, paranoid, psychotic, aggressive, angry and without memory, Rich was "my husband and not my husband," as Thomas puts it. She anguished over her inability or unwillingness to keep him at home, knowing that to do so would mean sacrificing her own life to become not just his caretaker, but his jailer. Instead, she placed him in a long-term-care facility for people with brain injuries, visited regularly, and brought him home for afternoon visits. The descriptions of Rich's sometimes off-the-wall, sometimes eerily perceptive comments are one of the book's highlights. Meanwhile, Thomas put together a new life, making new friends, pursuing new interests, acquiring new dogs. Harry, the beagle her husband had been chasing when the accident occurred, was joined by Rosie, half-dachshund and half-whippet, then later by Carolina Bones, a part-beagle stray. (This trio of warmth-providing sleeping companions gives the book its title, drawn from an aboriginal saying.) While basically chronological, Thomas's memoir meanders at times: One moment, she's explaining how to break up a dogfight; the next, she's touting cutting down nettles as a cure for melancholy, or telling us about smoking and giving up smoking. One of the most unexpected side excursions is prompted by her discovery of art produced by brain- damaged patients. She begins collecting it, an enthusiasm that prompts an enjoyable chapter on outsider art.More of a scrapbook than a full-fledged memoir, but still an affecting account of guilt, shame and acceptance.
USA Today

"Thomas writes honestly and straight from the heart...[and] offers hope that life can retain its richness after tragedy."
Boston Globe

"A tragedy with much comic relief."
Orlando Sentinel

"...an unpretentious story about coming to terms with tragedy and lost dreams."
Glamour
"Heartbreaking...Thomas writ[es]...with lots of grace and little self-pity."
Washington Post

"From the depths of catastrophe, she has crafted a painfully honest and loving portrait of the irrevocably altered life she finds herself leading. The stories are few, the moments are spare, but what Thomas tells us is shot through with light."

Glamour (New Reasons to Stay up all Night)

"Heartbreaking...Thomas writ[es]...with lots of grace and little self-pity."
People
"This haunting memoir is slim but wields enormous impact...this book tackles the largest of human subjects—love and loss."
Newsweek

"This memoir could be a fall sleeper...the perfectly honed observations of a clear-eyed and witty-writer."
Elle Magazine

"A memorable account of how tragic loss can lead to ineffable moments of surpassing love and miraculous change."
O Magazine

"The startling power and beauty of Abigail Thomas's memoir comes...from her refusal to surrender the shards of a loving relationship."
Booklist

"Thomas has elevated what could be, at best, an overemotional sermon or, at worst, a grim romp in self-pity to a high plain of true inspiration."
LA Times - Susan Salter Reynolds

"Resounding...the clarity is stunning."
People Magazine
"This haunting memoir is slim but wields enormous impact...this book tackles the largest of human subjects—love and loss."
Vanity Fair - Elissa Schappell

"Thomas...fac[es] reality with courage, bursts of anger, patience, and dark humor. What resonates most, though, is her generosity..."
Entertainment Weekly - Rebecca Ascher-Walsh

"Thomas tells an extraordinary, but horrific, love story."
Glamour (UK)
"Heartbreaking...Thomas writ[es]...with lots of grace and little self-pity."
Newsday - Judith Long

"Illuminates a new life built on tragedy but not tragic."
Time Out NY - Justin W. Ravitz

"Here, love can't exactly conquer all, but it assumes radically new, stunning shapes."
From the Publisher

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR A THREE DOG LIFE
 
"A Three Dog Life is, I think, the best memoir I have ever read. It’s sad, terrifying, and scorchingly honest. It’s also a testament to the power of love, suggesting that even when love isn’t enough…somehow, it is. This book is a punch to the heart. Read it."--Stephen King
 
"Abigail Thomas's many gifts as a writer and deeply generous person show us what is possible when two brave people examine a reconfigured life—one that conjures the uncanny, spotlights the power of art, and amplifies the meaning and reach of love."--Amy Hempel, author of Reasons to Live, Tumble Home, and The Dog of the Marriage

"Thomas has elevated what could be, at best, an overemotional sermon or, at worst, a grim romp in self-pity to a high plain of true inspiration."  -- Booklist
 

"A tragedy with much comic relief." -- Boston Globe
 

"A memorable account of how tragic loss can lead to ineffable moments of surpassing love and miraculous change." -- Elle Magazine
 

"Thomas tells an extraordinary, but horrific, love story." -- Entertainment Weekly
 

"Heartbreaking...Thomas writ[es]...with lots of grace and little self-pity." -- Glamour
 

"Resounding...the clarity is stunning." -- LA Times
 

"Illuminates a new life built on tragedy but not tragic."  -- Newsday
 

"This memoir could be a fall sleeper...the perfectly honed observations of a clear-eyed and witty-writer." -- Newsweek
 

"The startling power and beauty of Abigail Thomas's memoir comes...from her refusal to surrender the shards of a loving relationship."  -- O Magazine
 

"...an unpretentious story about coming to terms with tragedy and lost dreams."  -- Orlando Sentinel
 

"This haunting memoir is slim but wields enormous impact...this book tackles the largest of human subjects--love and loss."  -- People
 

"Here, love can't exactly conquer all, but it assumes radically new, stunning shapes."  -- Time Out NY
 

"Thomas writes honestly and straight from the heart...[and] offers hope that life can retain its richness after tragedy." -- USA Today
 

"Thomas...fac[es] reality with courage, bursts of anger, patience, and dark humor.  What resonates most, though, is her generosity..."  -- Vanity Fair

"From the depths of catastrophe, she has crafted a painfully honest and loving portrait of the irrevocably altered life she finds herself leading.  The stories are few, the moments are spare, but what Thomas tells us is shot through with light." -- Washington Post

 
 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156033237
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/10/2007
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
89,833
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.67(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Three Dog Life


By Thomas, Abigail

Harcourt

Copyright © 2006 Thomas, Abigail
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0151012113

x

What Stays the Same

This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt. Everything else changes. A grandson needs me and then he doesn't. My children are close then one drifts away. I smoke and don't smoke; I knit ponchos, then hats, shawls, hats again, stop knitting, start up again. The clock ticks, the seasons shift, the night sky rearranges itself, but my husband remains constant, his injuries are permanent. He grounds me. Rich is where I shine. I can count on myself with him.

I live in a cozy house with pretty furniture. Time passes here. There is a fireplace and two acres and the dogs run around and dig big holes and I don't care. I have a twenty-seven-inch TV and lots of movies. The telephone rings often. Rich is lodged in a single moment and it never tips into the next. Last week I lay on his bed in the nursing home and watched him. I was out of his field of vision and I think he forgot I was there. He stood still, then he picked up a newspaper from a neat pile of newspapers, held it a moment, and carefully put it back. His arms dropped to his sides. He looked as if he was waiting for the next thing but there is no next thing.

I got stuck with the past and future. That's my half of this bad hand. I know what happened and I never get used to it. Just when Ithink I've metabolized everything I am drawn up short. "Rich lost part of his vision" is what I say, but recently Sally told the nurse, "He is blind in his right eye," and I was catapulted out of the safety of the past tense into the now.

Today I drive to the wool store. I arrive with my notebook open and a pen.

"What are you doing?" Paul asks.

"I'm taking a poll," I say. "What is the one thing that stays stable in your life?"

"James," says Paul instantly.

"And I suppose James will say Paul," I say, writing down James.

"No, he'll say the dogs," says Paul, laughing.

"Creativity," says Heidi, the genius.

"I have to think," says a woman I don't know.

"The dogs," says James.


Rich and I had a house together once. He was the real gardener. He raked and dug, planted and weeded, stood over his garden proudly. Decorative grasses were his specialty. He cut down my delphiniums when he planted his fountain grass. "Didn't you see them?" I asked. "They were so tall and beautiful." But he was too busy digging to listen. I lost interest in flowers. We planted a hydrangea tree outside the kitchen window. We cut down (after much deliberation) two big prickly bushes that were growing together like eyebrows at either side of our small path. We waited until the birds were done with their young, then Rich planted two more hydrangea trees where the bushes had stood. I don't want to see how big they are by now, how beautiful their heavy white blossoms look when it rains. "I love what you've done with the garden," my friend Claudette says, looking at the bed of overgrown nettles in my backyard. I weeded there exactly once. I want to plant fountain grass out there, but first I need a backhoe.

Rich and I don't have the normal ups and downs of a marriage. I don't get impatient. He doesn't have to figure out what to do with his retirement. I don't watch him go through holidays with the sorrow of missing his absent children. Last week we were walking down the hall to his room, it was November, we had spent the afternoon together. "If I wasn't with you and we weren't getting food, the dark would envelop my soul," he said cheerfully.

He never knows I'm leaving until I go.

Copyright 2006 by Abigail Thomas

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
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system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work
should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.





Continues...

Excerpted from A Three Dog Life by Thomas, Abigail Copyright © 2006 by Thomas, Abigail. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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