This book is sweet, poignant, and beautiful. It is also gut-wrenchingly honest and realistic about the author's attempts to cope with her life after her husband has a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He gets hit by a car while walking their dog and their lives are never the same. This memoir is about the author's life and marriage after the accident and for the next five years, until the present day. I loved reading it. I haven't really ever read a book like it.
The author builds herself a life, accompanied by what ends up being three dogs altogether. She still takes joy in her marriage, such as it is. I wish I could put into words how beautiful this book is, but I can't. It is a lovely book with mature topics (grieving, survivor guilt, etc.) for adults or especially mature teens. Highest recommendations.
on September 28, 2006
This memoir managed to be both incredibly sad and yet positive and life-affirming at the same time. Abigail Thomas describes the journey she must take in the years after her husband's accident and how she manages to progress from inner turmoil (and at times, the inability to function at all), to a place where she is at peace with her life. Though her husband must remain at a hospital for brain-injured patients, she is able to bring him home for visits and spends time with him at the center. The comments and thoughts from his head are so fascinating...I found myself eagerly waiting to see what he would say the next time. Just wondering about the brain and all that we don't know about it is truly amazing to me. Sometimes he makes pronouncements that appear so profound, and other times he seems in total confusion, and while it's incredibly heartbreaking, it's also mesmerizing to read their conversations together.
As for Thomas' relationship with her three dogs, she describes it beautifully. I would think any dog owner, as I am, can relate to the description of bed-crowding and jostling for the most attention, but mainly to the bond that forms between human and animal.
on September 19, 2006
......enjoying it so much that when I finished, I felt that my best old friend had left me. Afraid to let go, I had to start reading it again, so we could re-unite. I found new gems with every re-read, and appreciated the writing, warmth and feeling even more than the first time in a way that love/like is not supposed to work.
on September 27, 2006
I discovered A Three Dog Life through an article in the New York Times this summer. An excerpt from Abigail Thomas's book appeared in the column, Modern Love. She titled it: "My Husband Survived, the Man I Married Didn't." That is the crux of her book. And with this title, she got me. I, too, have a husband who survived a traumatic brain injury (stroke), and the man I married did not fully survive either.
Thomas's writing is poetic, courageous, and raw. Her story is the pain and joy of the human condition distilled in a small volume. Thomas weaves a new cloth of love from what was and what is now, looking for the meaning of life in the simple and the mundane, and appreciating both with keen insight. Abigail Thomas, the woman, discovers hard and wonderful truths about herself, and is wise enough to learn from her husband the infinite value of just one moment of life, lived in the present. As a writer, she shares generously with us the wisdom she has aquired, but did not ask for.
Although this book looks at tragedy head-on, it is filled with beauty and humor. I laughed out loud, as well as cried while reading it. And when I finished it, I immediately started it over again.
A Three Dog Life is a gift of a read, but to one who loves someone with a traumatic brain injury, it is a measure of sanity in a life forever changed. She "gets it" and writes honestly and poignantly about this journey, a rare combination.
on March 26, 2013
I was well on the way to considering A Three Dog Life a favorite, getting ready to recommend it to friends. The writing was lyrical and touching. My interest began to wane when it became clear the story was mostly about the author's random train of thought than her experience with her husband and dogs. I got irritated with her irresponsible attitude toward her unspayed female dog in heat. But I kept reading. I was absolutely stunned when she casually threw in a story of a kitten being killed in an unspeakably cruel, monstrous manner resulting in a death of agony and terror. She expressed no emotion. It seemed to have no significance to the author. I reread this passage and found no necessity for its inclusion, as her casual mention of it seemed to have no bearing on the subject. It was followed closely by another offhand description of horrific animal suffering. I was so stunned I threw the book into the garbage, something I have never, ever done in my life. No wonder Stephen King likes this book. Now, before you get on my case about death and suffering being part of life, I do realize that these things occur. I have worked in the veterinary industry for 25 years, my husband hunts and I am familiar with raising animals for food. It was just the completely lighthearted way she related the incidences, and the way they had no bearing on the subject,just random information leading nowhere except shock for the reader. The first part of the book is engrossing and beautifully written, but it deteriorates into boring stream of conciousness. A description of this type of cruelty delivered with such nonchalance will stay with me a very long time.
on January 30, 2007
In her memoir of her life after the traumatic brain injury to her husband, Rich, Abigail Thomas gives us all something to live for. Hope can be not just for the future, but also for the present. Thomas's descriptions of her husband, her dogs, her house, even her socks, show us how to knit a pattern of courage when faced with life's vicissitudes. This is a small book, easily read in one sitting, but one that you will want to read again and again.
on July 22, 2015
I admit to disappointment in this book. I expected it to be about a woman and her dogs, maybe a tribute to female strength amid the comfort of caring for her dogs. The book was nothing of the sort. It was an in-depth exploration of a woman learning to cope with living alone with a ghost. Her husband was involved in a terrible accident that robbed him of his memory, personality, and quality of life. He is in a home and his wife has to find a way to move on. Unfortunately, the dogs were like ghosts also, having almost no interaction with their owner. There was so much more that could have been said! Instead there is a woman wandering aimlessly through her suddenly changed life, a woman how happens to own three dogs. She doesn't even talk to them. She could have revealed so much in her conversations with her devoted companions. They just stay in the house. SHe doesn't even take them for walks. She's there and they're there, End of story.
on July 24, 2014
This books was a little confusing for me. The title and description blurb made me think that this was about a woman coping with her husband's injury by adopting some dogs who were like therapy animals. It wasn't. It ended up mostly being about her moving. Her visiting her husband, who flew into rages, was often confused, forgetful, or he sat there in silence. It was about her writing. At the beginning of the book it mentioned her going to a book signing; I didn't realize until the end of the book that she was (or had been) a teacher. The inability to use correct punctuation drove me crazy. The inability to string sentences together that actually made sense sent me from crazy to insane. She flitted from one subject to another, page to page, chapter to chapter, and some of it was completely pointless. What was the point of this book? Sure, it was about how her husband was hit by a car and had to be institutionalized; I would say only 2/5 of the book was about this. 1/5 was complaining about being old and not ever having the desire to buy groceries/her fridge being empty. 1/5 about going out to eat and drinking coffee. And the rest some mashed together crap about her kids (I only remember a daughter being mentioned, so what other kids did she have?) and how she came to adopt her dogs and how they followed her around everywhere when they weren't chasing wildlife in the back yard. I regret wasting the 1.99 I paid. I could've gotten something that was a better use of my time.
on November 9, 2006
I read this book several times and will read it again and again--it's like the best of friends. In the particulars of her husband's accident and the five years following, the author explores the elements of love and how a life can be built and then rebuilt upon them, despite great loss. She writes sparely, powerfully, and with wonderful wisdom and wit. I would recommend this beautiful book as a gift to anyone going through hard times.
Rich Rogin was walking the family dog late one night in his Manhattan neighborhood when he was struck by a car and nearly killed; the accident report said, "dead, or likely to die." Although he didn't die, he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI, to those unlucky enough to be on familiar terms with this sad condition).
Abigail Thomas gives us a tender little book about life with her husband after the accident wiped out his past and his future, leaving him only a jumbled present. Rich was not able to live at home and Abigail moved upstate to be near the facility where he lived, bringing him home for a visit every week. She filled her days with writing, knitting, and napping with her three dogs.
While the facts of the story are painfully sad, Abigail infuses her writing with loving accommodations of Rich's diminished condition. Of her visits, so often made difficult by his inability to fix himself in the real world: "During the days when it is impossible to communicate in words, I get into his bed and we hold hands. Nap therapy. This is a familiar posture, something we can do without speech, without thinking." Rich's reality becomes her reality on the days when she can't penetrate his confused world.
Abigail's enjoyment of her dogs is threaded through the book. Like her husband, they force her to live in the present. "Dogs are never in a bad mood over something you said at breakfast," she writes. "Dogs never sniff at the husks of old conversations, or conduct autopsies on weekends gone wrong. An unexamined life may not be worth living, but the overexamined life is hell. We talk too much."
Although "A Three Dog Life" is labeled a memoir, it's not laid out in the linear fashion of most memoirs -- more like a collection of essays presented in random order. For me this presentation left a lack of closure with several of her themes. I realize that it was a deliberate choice by the author but for me it was the one blemish on an otherwise magical reading experience. Do read it for yourself, in one sitting if you can. You'll find it a much happier book than it sounds.
Linda Bulger, 2008