Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

One of the first books I finished this year as part of my annual reading challenge was a memoir from 2006 called A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas. The title and blurb are misleading. It's not really about dogs, nor is it truly about her husband and the tragic, random accident that left him with severe brain trauma. This is about Abby, a woman with children and grandchildren, settled in her ways, learning how to live and cope with the reality of being married to a man she both recognizes and doesn't, how to cope with loss and change, without losing herself in the process.

It was stunning.

The prose is simple and clean, very fast and easy to read in that respect, and yet there are observations scattered throughout the book that made me both love and hate her ease with words. She writes in present tense, using a non-linear method that in many ways is indicative of the way her husband's brain works. His injuries have taken away his past, as well as made his behavior erratic, so without being able to remember anything for more than five minutes (seemingly, some incidents are startlingly  insightful and a little eerie), he lives in the now. The author recreates that in her voice, her anecdotes jumping around from then to now to when she got the second dog, the first.

It won't be everybody's cup of tea. The key is most likely that you have to like and identify with Abby just a little bit in order to appreciate it best. She is funny and sad and insightful and very, very human, which means she is also a little bit selfish and harshly honest about her own fallibility. It also doesn't ever really resolve much of anything, because let's face it, life doesn't do that most of the time.

But I didn't care. I loved it.        

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