Sunday, November 29, 2009

A three dog life by Abigail Thomas

I was introduced to Abigail Thomas when doing research for a memoir writing class I led earlier this semester. She has written several small volumes (less than 200 pages) of memoir and a book about writing memoir.
She calls herself a memoirist.

Ms Thomas has an amazing ability to weave a coherent story out of beautiful fragments or short essays that loosely weave everything together. In this case, Thomas's husband Rich is in a horrible accident that leaves him permanently brain damaged. She spends the next 5 years reflecting on this and adjusting to her new, and she hates to admit it, lovely life which involves buying and moving into a house in upstate New York so she can be close to him in his nursing home, and keeping company with 3 dogs.

This is the type of book that you wish you had written. Ms Thomas is simply very adept at observations about life and making writing seem absolutely effortless. Even as she is a memoirist, you never get the impression that she is telling all or that she is narcissistic. In fact, upon reading some of these lines you become so wrapped up in her prose, that you feel certain she is writing about you.

Here is an excerpt from one essay that is written in second person. It was one of the many enjoyable moments in the book:

After 5 or 6 minutes you will tire and stand back from your work.
A tiny patch has been thinned. Perhaps you will now make coffee
and bring the cup outside. If all goes well, a perfect pink peony bush
will be revealed by lunchtime. There will be slim yellow irises too,
and the big throaty purple ones that remind you, alas, of an old man's
scrotum, but you will weed there too. By early afternoon the sun may
burn through what has been a heavy mist, and should you not be ready
to be dazzled, do not fret. It is time for a nap anyway. Inside you may
notice that what you thought was dust is instead a layer of golden pollen
blowing through the open windows. If only life were more like this, you
will think, as you and the dogs traipse up to bed, and then you realize
with a start that this is life.

She has a gift of storytelling and honesty that will take your breath away. Curl up with a cup of tea on a rainy Sunday with this one.

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