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The Journal Keeper: A Memoir Paperback – March 8, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Writing a journal is an intensely personal act, an exercise in which one’s most private thoughts and painful experiences can be set forth through an act of deliberate self-examination. So when a writer of Theroux’s stature chooses to share such introspective feelings with the world, readers are afforded an unparalleled opportunity to observe how such crystalline powers of observation are developed and nurtured. Friendships, finances, homes, health: all have gloriously embraced her or just as unceremoniously abandoned her. Through it all, however, one constant remained: Theroux’s steadfast devotion to recording her emotions and impressions in journals, which proved to be a haven where she could reflect upon and retreat from life’s challenges in order to discover paths of clarity and purpose. A subtle and sympathetic witness, Theroux is an equally ardent proponent of meeting confrontations head-on. Editing more than six years of her personal reflections, Theroux goes public in this elegiac memoir of love and loss, an elegant tribute to the resiliency of human nature. --Carol Haggas --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“I loved this singularly honest and graceful book. The Journal Keeper reminds us that there is no such thing as an ordinary moment, and certainly no such thing as an ordinary life.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love

“[Theroux] excels at closely observed and elegantly expressed portraits of domestic life that fondly recall the tradition of E.B. White. Theroux is a lovely writer …The best thing about The Journal Keeper is the way it keeps us hopeful—and expectant—about what will happen next.”—Danny Heitman, Christian Science Monitor

“Captivating…a multi-dimensional pleasure…Theroux offers us a multilayered view of herself that is at once whimsical and profound… [she] is able to reach deep inside and step outside herself with inspiring aplomb.”—Linda Stankard, Bookpage

“Theroux seems to possess a certain calmness and wisdom…[The Journal Keeper] is full of small, lyrical insights.”—Juliet Wittman, The Washington Post

“When a writer of Theroux’s stature chooses to share such introspective feelings with the world, readers are afforded an unparalleled opportunity to observe how such crystalline powers of observation are developed and nurtured…Theroux goes public in this elegiac memoir of love and loss, an elegant tribute to the resiliency of human nature.”—Booklist

“Theroux possess all the field marks of a good writer: Her images and metaphors are so good they glow…[Her] advice—‘Lean toward the light’ and make it a place ‘to save small pieces of beauty’—is unnecessary. With The Journal Keeper, she has already shown us how.”—Jann Malone, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Theroux writes frankly of her doubts, fears, vanities…it is those shortcomings and subsequent reflections that make this book a cut above….if a life like Theroux’s, so relatively ordinary on the surface, can be felt and expressed in such an extraordinary way, might it be that our ordinary lives can, too?”—Pamela Miller, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Lyrical and humorous…[Theroux’s] narrative is spiked with the trials and joys of writing, intermixed with everyday sweet nothings, none of which are ordinary, that she fashions in to universal truths…around every bend are phrases to savor.”—Mims Cushing, Florida Times-Union

“What a wonderful, wonderful book! I felt like I was on a little journey. It really made me think beyond the page. The Journal Keeper reads like a case study of a person’s life. You will read it more than once.”—Amy Sedaris, best-selling author of I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

“In lovely, straightforward prose, Theroux speaks honestly about the quotidian and miraculous aspects of loss and new chances. It’s all here—births, deaths and marriages—and the reader is invited into the intimacies of a world that is both familiar and full of surprises.”—Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802145280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802145284
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #861,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Phyllis Theroux is an essayist, columnist, teacher and author. She is the critically acclaimed author of "California and Other States of Grace", a memoir, two collections of essays, "Peripheral Visions" and "Nightlights: Bedtime Stories for Parents in the Dark", an anthology, "The Book of Eulogies", and a children's book, "Serefina Under the Circumstances". In 2002, a novella, "Giovanni's Light", was published at Christmas. Her newest book, "The Journal Keeper: A Memoir", will be published by Grove Atlantic in March 2010.

A contributing essayist on the "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" from 1992 - 1996, Theroux's columns, op-ed pieces, reviews and feature stories have appeared in various newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and International Herald Tribune. In the l980's, she was a monthly columnist for Parents Magazine. In the l990's she wrote a monthly column for House Beautiful. Her essays continue to be anthologized in numerous collections.

Following the publication of "The Book of Eulogies" in l997, Theroux created "The Great American Portraits Program", which was sponsored by the Library of Congress and toured various cities in the United States. She has been a guest professor and lecturer at numerous forums, colleges and universities.

The founder of Nightwriters, which conducts writing and creativity seminars in the United States and abroad, Theroux occasionally conducts one-on-one editorial seminars with individual writers who come to spend time working in her writer's cottage in Ashland, Virginia.

A community activist and educator, in 1989, she formed a non-profit organization, "Winners in Grade School", to attract grants and support an inner-city Washington, D. C. elementary school where she taught creative writing to fifth graders between 1989 - 1993. During that time she created a consortium of private schools to be partners in education with the school.

A graduate of Manhattanville College, with a B.A. in Philosophy, she lives with her husband, Ragan Phillips, in Ashland, Virginia.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 53 customer reviews
The writing is marvelous.
A New West Coast Journaler
That is just "it" about Phyllis--she can let you feel like you really know her, as she does on the pages of "The Journal Keeper".
Debbie Kendrick
I could not put this book down once I started reading it.
Edythe M. Bluske

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A New West Coast Journaler on March 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Journal Keeper has been a personal book of inspiration for me. The writing is marvelous. It is for everyone. If I had had the opportunity to read it years ago I might have been able to hear my own voice. "The Journal Keeper" has given voice to the silence within me. It has led me to offer it as a gift to many women in my life and as one of them said last night when we were talking about the book and the author, " The Journal Keeper is like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in every night. I eagerly anticipate turning the pages and being swept away by the author's life and wisdom." I believe she captured it perfectly. Few books have had such a profound impact on me. There are classics, yes, but The Journal Keeper deserves a shelf of its own. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, it is the perfect gift because it's meant to be shared - just as the author shared a glimpse of her inner soul with all of us.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Edwards on February 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's a charming book. I love the way she weaves together numerous places -- Ashland, VA, Carmel, CA, San Francisco, Washington, even Italy -- and numerous people. Her descriptions, framed by a meticulous wordsmith, are rich in imagination and thoughtful in perception. But it is her insights into the human dimension, sometimes gentle, sometimes less so, which make the book meaningful, as she addresses relationships, writing, illness, aging. In the end she writes a love story, and we are touched and uplifted. Can all journals be so inspiring?
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Kendrick on March 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book carries all the wit and charm of the writer herself, as anyone who knows Phyllis will tell you. That is just "it" about Phyllis--she can let you feel like you really know her, as she does on the pages of "The Journal Keeper". By cutting and pasting the vignettes from her diary/journal, we traverse a six year period in her life from 2000-2006. I was astonished and delighted at the surprises, treasures and secrets she revealed. The great gift of this book: it will make you want to write. With words, she is able to bless everyday, ordinary moments and make them sacred.The Journal Keeper: A Memoir
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kerry L Daniel on August 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first got to know this author while reading her article in the "Why We Write" column of a recent issue of Poets & Writers magazine. I was immediately drawn to the lyrical quality of her writing, which spoke to my heart in many ways. I felt I was enjoying afternoon tea with a good friend, sharing experiences and secrets at a level rarely achieved in friendships today. Her honesty, warmth, compassion, and humility drew me in completely. When I came to the end I didn't want to say goodbye, so I went online and found "The Journal Keeper: A Memoir" at the Kindle bookstore. My Kindle was practically virgin; I'd downloaded a few free classics and one awful fiction book that I couldn't get through and deleted. I was ready to read something contemporary and brilliant. This was the perfect book companion for that moment.

I love reading autobiographies and memoirs. I must admit, though, that I'm weary of reading stories of tortured drug addicts, unwed mothers, and child abuse victims. These types of memoirs swamp the bookstores, while there's a seeming dearth of published life stories that evolve from joy, discovery, imagination, and inspiration.

I knew reading the first few paragraphs that Phyllis Theroux's "Journal Keeper" was just what I was looking for. And once I started, I couldn't put it down. She speaks about her struggles with issues universal to everyone, especially "baby boomers": divorce, aging parents, personal aging, and letting children find their wings. She also shares her joy in discovering new veins of creativity in her soul at a time in life when many might think they're ready for "the pasture." Her writing style is charming, enchanting, warm and deeply personal. A more distinctive voice you won't find anywhere!

I, too, am a writer.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In THE JOURNAL KEEPER, Phyllis Theroux gives us an opportunity to second guess her life through her journal. She comments on it and displays all the chutzpa necessary to engage us in her life. We are judge and jury, but mostly, we are readers, second guessers, and hopefully advocates for keeping and preserving our thoughts in a journal.

"There is something very wrong with my use of time." Maybe I have Alice in Wonderland in my head too much recently, but it's a very thought-provoking sentence in a book about keeping a journal. Theroux has such a graceful writing style, squeezing each word for all its meaning. Keeping a journal, to her, is not happenstance; it is a function of her self-worth. As a writer, she values words, descriptions and language, intertwined with the events and elements that color her world: "Why isn't it enough simply to enjoy a thing without wanting to describe it, pull the thread of sensibility through it, like a needle poking through a bead, to make it mine?"

We see the world through Theroux's eyes --- in her mid-60s, divorced, losing her mother, frustrated about so many aspects of her life to date. The journal is our touchstone, our rudder, keeping us somehow connected to reality, to the day-to-day. Without it, we have no sense of balance. Looking at life and death through her eyes, as well as her mother's, we live vicariously though their visions.

An avid reader, Theroux has an eclectic and excellent taste in authors. At the end of the book, she includes a reading list of her favorites. Among them are Marcus Aurelius, Stephen King, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Arthur Miller, Henry Miller, Eckhart Tolle and Kurt Vonnegut. Often, she quotes in her journals from an author who makes a relevant point, perhaps shoring up an experience.
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