Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Three Dog Life

Beautifully written, poetic in places, and full of poignancy and insight, Abigail Thomas’s A Three Dog Life, a memoir about her husband’s accident and its repercussions, aches with honesty. Emotionally raw in presentation, this non-fiction work about tragedy not only has Thomas examine the highs and lows of the wreckage but also focuses on how she manages to live her radically changed life.

Rich Thomas, after being hit by a car while chasing  his dog, miraculously lives, but his brain injury assures that he will not be the same. After a year of surgeries and attempts at acclimation to his old life, his hallucinations, rantings, and wanderings commit him instead to life in an institution.  A former newspaper writer, Rich’s sharp mind, now shattered, sends out the most unusual of comments. Once after coming from a CAT scan, he tells Abigail, “I felt I was at a casual execution”  or as he walked past an aquarium full of goldfish, he ponders this question:  “I wonder if [the fish] remember the other [aquariums]?” His comments, after his accident, as one reviewer notes [were] “eerie poetry.”

This is the new life that Abigail will spend with her husband. She deals with it with grace, but not before she runs the gamut of emotions about what happened to their life: anger, frustration, disbelief, fear, remorse, guilt, and finally resignation. That resignation, which I know is not a new concept, brings her to accepting better her new ---- and very altered life: she moves from New York City to a new town, closer to where Rich is institutionalized, rearranges and changes her interests, and settles in -- a life mostly surrounded by her three dogs. The dogs teach her how to live:  “the past is not .. interesting; there is nothing to relive. There is no hurry for what is to come. Instead throw self into everything -- sleep, eat, and play wholeheartedly -- and stick to the present.”

In the last pages of the memoir, she writes, “I can’t influence the future; I can’t fix the past. What a relief.”

I loved the book.
I found this photo of her pups when I was searching for the book cover. :)

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