A Three Dog Life

( 79 )

Overview

When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has 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 great change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and ...

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A Three Dog Life

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Overview

When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has 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 great 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 lives in the eternal present, and the eerie poetry of his often uncanny perceptions. This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail discovered in the five 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: 9/10/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 232,404
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

ABIGAIL THOMAS is the author of Safekeeping, a memoir, as well as a novel and two story collections. She lives in Woodstock, New York, and teaches at the New School.

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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,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
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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Table of Contents

"What Stays the Same"—currently with Dan Jones
"Accident"—published in "O"
"Home"—published in "O"
"Comfort" –published in Dog is My Co-Pilot, Bark Anthology
"Surprises" –not placed serially
"Magnificent Frigate Bird" –published in Tin House
"Learning To Live Alone" –published in Self
"How to Break up a Dog Fight" –not placed serially
"Dog Talk" –published in Bark
"How to Banish Melancholy" –to be published in Women’s Best Friend, Seal Press Anthology
"Carolina’s in Heat" –published in Bark
"For Now" –not placed serially
"Filling What’s Empty" –published in Tin House
"NO" –currently with Dan Jones
"Guilt" –published in Subtropics
"Edward Butterman Sleeps At Home" –not placed serially
"Knitting 2002 to Present" –to be published in Swivel
"Outsider Art" –not placed serially
"Running" –not placed serially
"Past, Present, Future" –excerpt to be published in Real Simple
"Moving" –published on Mister Beller’s Neighborhood
"Five Years" –not placed serially

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 79 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(8)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2011

    a wonderful read

    I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this book. Her husband's accident was certainly tragic, but she manages to keep up her humorous side and take each situation as it comes - in some ways, kind of magically. At times I felt sad but other times absolutely laughed out loud, especially when she relates to her dogs. Our four-legged friends are so important in keeping us going and enjoying our lives, no matter the turns it takes.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    Only 112 pages

    The book is only 112 pages!!

    5 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2012

    I got this book when it was on sale.

    Yes I got the book cause it was on sale on the Title caight my eye. I am so glad I got this book. It was a good book and shows us how we never know what is going to happen in life. Hope others will have a chance to read and they like it just like I did.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2007

    Sheila....avid reader

    I would say this book would be highly recommended for anyone that has someone close in their life with a mental disabilty due to an accident, dementia, etc. Abigail Thomas lets her feelings out. She is real. I could feel the author's ups and downs with her mentally challenged husband. A must read for people that are experiencing these emotions with a loved one.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Really

    Is that really how this book ends... I stop at 112 pages and it seems like there should be more...

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2006

    Utterly Delicious Reading !!!

    This little book is so full of the isms of life: courage, sadness, wonder, kindness, love, acceptance, exploration, and on and on. I could not put the book down and read it in one sitting. It just fullfilled me with appreciation for life.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Touching, a good read!

    I enjoyed this book. As it is not my usual genre I wasn't sure I would....but I am becoming more fond of memoirs and this was a good one. By the time I was done with this book I wish my life had intersected with hers. She seemed like someone I would like to know. The story was well-written and I enjoyed her descriptions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2011

    Very good book!

    I bought this book many years ago as my grandmother began to deteriorate mentally. This book helped me in dealing with this change in our family. Ms. Thomas is very open about how her husband's accident changed her life and the struggles she went through. I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    she has an easy to read writing style...love it!

    at times ms. thomas is laugh-out-loud funny and other times my heart aches b/c of her pain and grief. an excellent read!!!! hard to put it down so i could go to sleep at 3 a.m. i have put her other books on my wishlist, can't wait to read those:). love the cover w/ her on the couch w/ the dogs, what great dogs to have for a three dog life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Awesome and enlightening book!!

    I picked this book up by random and found it was just what I needed at the time. Looking at someone elses struggles and the things they are going through helps those of us who are in caregiver positions, and this is what the book was all about, fighting the struggle to care for a loved one while still maintaining your own identity. Abigail Thomas is a brillant author and I appreciate the courage and struggle she went through to write this novel and help others in the process. Excellent job!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2006

    A New Fan!

    I loved this book...a small book packed with so much life! While the situation can be considered a catastrophe, nowhere in the book does one find a whisper of poor me. Ms. Thomas' book states, it is what it is and this is how we must live life now. Her book is laugh out loud funny in some places and very poignant in others. This is one of those books that you don't want to put down and when finished, wish there were more pages. I applaud Ms. Thomas for her outlook on her situation and the way she is living her life. I am now going to order all of her previous books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Lillian

    *runs in and brushes red blonde hair out of face. Runs to her room and grabs makup bag and heads to bathroom. Comes out with makeup on* i have a date. :P does my black mascara make my brown eyes look weird issac?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2014

    Hannah

    She runs in, plopping across from the retriever.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Issac

    Stares at Lillian. "N..no" he stutters, "you look..... beautiful"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2014

    Persistantly depressing

    More about dealing with a spouse with a head injiry than a dog dont waste your money or time

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  • Posted April 18, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A must read of how our lives turn on a dime, and how to live hon

    A must read of how our lives turn on a dime, and how to live honestly through aching sadness. I guess you could call it a "how to" book as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    Fun read

    It was a fun read. Once I started, I didn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    I opened the cover and couldn't put the book down until I finish

    I opened the cover and couldn't put the book down until I finished it - literally. This story puts your life in perspective for you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2013

    Loved it

    Wonderful book about the authors life after her husband has tramatic brain damage. Parts are sad, but I really found joy in it as well. It was a great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2013

    Grate

    Best book ever

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 79 Customer Reviews

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