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Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  542 ratings  ·  92 reviews
A beautifully crafted and inviting account of one woman�s life, Safekeeping offers a sublimely different kind of autobiography. Setting aside a straightforward narrative in favor of brief passages of vivid prose, Abigail Thomas revisits the pivotal moments and the tiny incidents that have shaped her life: pregnancy at 18; single motherhood (of three!) by the age of 26; t...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Anchor (first published 2000)
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I learned of Abigal Thomas after reading an article on nonlinear narrative in The Writer's Chronicle. The article interviewed four writers, two with whom I was familiar: Paul Lisicky and Bernard Cooper. I had an opportunity to study with these men in the MFA Program at Antioch University and appreciated their style. The interview made me think I would like Thomas too, so I ordered two of her books, including Safekeeping.

WOW!! I want this woman to be my teacher! In writing AND in life. She has th...more
Elizabeth Andrew
What a gorgeous book! As someone who perpetually gripes about memoirists not doing thorough, emotional research, I have to give three cheers to Abigail Thomas. She has taken the mundane stuff of motherhood and marriage and a woman floundering through life and made an object of striking beauty. Her short pieces are tiny windows onto tiny moments that nonetheless illuminate human brokenness and the terrific force of love. I delight in trusting a narrator so completely. I'm also thrilled to now kno...more
Abigail Thomas, you saucy grandmother you. I want to dive into a swimming pool full of you.
This voice-driven memoir is the genre at its height - full of 4am moments wherein life's mundanities (opening a can of tuna fish) are sketched into art in a way that only the writing process can achieve. A carefully controlled and magnificently crafted voice emerges on the page, and blank space becomes just as important as text. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this is that it left me wanting much...more
Abigail Thomas’ book, Safekeeping, took me by surprise. I was several chapters in before fully understanding her technique. “Several” chapters was the span of a mere seven, or maybe eight pages. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. The story does not come together as a whole, not really, until the end. It reads like a diary – a well crafted diary. Some chapters are less than a page, really just notes. Notes to a dead ex-husband.
It was interesting to me how Thomas wove her relationships into the...more
I loved this book. A beautiful look at part of one woman's life, the joys and sorrows that went with it in essay form that may as well been poetry for their loveliness. I wish that I had read this book before A Three Dog Life for a few reasons. 1. I liked this book more, but I think I would have liked A Three Dog Life more than I did (I already gave it 4 stars) had I known Abby's past. 2. I read this book knowing what happens to her and it was hard because in this book you could read the hope in...more
My sister recently recommended Abigail Thomas' Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life as good airplane reading. When I first glanced through it, I admit, I groaned. The chapters are extremely short, the story jumps around with no chronological order, the viewpoint changes from third person to first person to second person with no warning. I thought, oh great, another too-cool-for-school, experimental memoir that's trying to be deep. Thanks, Anna.

Then I started reading.

Safekeeping is actually...more
Dec 11, 2011 Jane rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
I enjoyed this book but I had some mixed feelings about it. My usual 3 star books are solid stories but with nothing exceptional to warrent an additional star. This one was different. It was not the typical memoir, which is partly what I liked about it (it was original) but it was was also unfamiliar. From the title, I expected to read stories about her life, however it was even less than stories. I'd call them snippets of her life. Each snippet was sometimes as short as one paragraph or as long...more
I read and reread this book because it has so much to teach about life and
about writing. Tuck this in your computer bag or travel case. It's ideal
for a dose of inspiration or reflection when you travel.
Nancy Sharp
I read this book as part of a creative nonfiction writers' group. I hadn't been exposed to Abigail Thomas' work before and was immediately engaged by the structure of the book and her singular style. She gives us only what we need to know, respecting the reader's capacity to process and reflect in the white space on every page. "Safekeeping" -- more than any other memoir -- inspired me to write my own story, Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, in a fragmented form with a...more
A friend and writer that I greatly admire gave me this book as a gift, and it was a lovely gift--like receiving something delicate and beautiful and meaningful.

At first, I would open it randomly and read one of the short vignettes, and it was like savoring a small but rich piece of candy. Just a little tidbit; nothing that was meant to make sense in the grand scheme, but just to be appreciated for its own words, metaphors, and images.

Reading it as a whole was completely different, though. I re...more
Jenny Blounts
A friend and writer that I greatly admire gave me this book as a gift, and it was a lovely gift--like receiving something delicate and beautiful and meaningful.

At first, I would open it randomly and read one of the short vignettes, and it was like savoring a small but rich piece of candy. Just a little tidbit; nothing that was meant to make sense in the grand scheme, but just to be appreciated for its own words, metaphors, and images.

Reading it as a whole was completely different, though. I read...more
Not sure how to rate this book--such a lovely, easy read (a terrific companion on a road trip through Alberta); the light, episodic 1-3 page chapters keep a wonderful pace, trimming a memoir's content down to distilled moments--I like the idea, the spareness, the switching back and forth between 1st/2nd/3rd person perspectives; and I like the informing relationship of her sister and her teaching-of-writing. Thomas's account of her three marriages, the mess of love, kept giving me this feeling of...more
Julene Bair
I'm amazed at how Thomas put together this memoir. It is a series of fragmented memories--various takes, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third--from her three marriages and, also carefully, about her three children. The technique made writing seem so easy. Next time I write a book, I thought, I'm going to hang a central topic in one corner of my psyche, like flypaper, and just start writing fragments like this, to see what adheres. In this case, the primary focus was on the second husban...more
Lisa Roney
Thomas's writing reminded me of Grace Paley's, which is a high compliment. She's of a different generation, but shares some of the subject matter--love relationships, children, the confusion of contemporary life--with Paley and some of the style as well. This story is told in short vignettes that at first seem random but eventually come together in a way that is revealing but not sensationalist. I think my favorite thing about it is how interesting she makes the ordinary. Taut and beautiful.
I love this book. If I am sad, I read this book. If I am angry at my husband and storming around like we have all the time in the world and it's okay not to be gentle with the people we love, I read this book. When I forget how to write, I read this book.

But it doesn't do everything. When I forget how to make Pie By The Yard, I still have to dig up Simply in Season.
Pam Oconnor
This book is a keeper, to keep and to pick up and just read one chapter or two chapters; which in some cases is only one paragraph. The writer could probably tell a story in one sentence. Beautifully written. The story of life. Loved it!! QUOTE: "You died, and the past separated itself from me like a continent drifting away."
I read this in an afternoon, a quick read but so powerful. Ms. Thomas' writing is so descriptive. I highlighted certain passages, that I didn't want to forget, i.e. her description of a hug, simply beautiful. I had read her other book, "A Three Dog Life" which was written after Safekeeping. It is equally as powerful.
Vignettes from a life. Sometimes funny ("expensive coffee made by furious youths"), sometimes unflatteringly honest, often beautiful "You died, and the past separated itself from me like a continent drifting away."
Written in four sections this book is a series of vignettes of individual memories, which alternate between first, second, and third person to tell one story, ultimately about love. This story, these stories, of love, are artfully and thoughtfully constructed by a woman, mother, sister, daughter, lover, wife, who is presented somehow as not weak despite her depression and at times, almost complete lack of coping mechanisms.

I was captivated by this story--drawn in by the short, sparse memories,...more
Maery Rose
This isn't a style of writing for everyone. The memoir consists of short snippets of life. Some chapters consist of only a brief paragraph. But I appreciated how effectively Abigail Thomas was able to portray a story of her life through such brief passages. Her story telling style illustrated what it is that we remember, the events that stick with us, and what these small snapshots can so clearly illustrate about our lives.
As Abigail Thomas takes a trip down memory lane and notices the mistakes she has made. While getting pregnant at a young age, and being married to many men who didn't love her she finds her way to happiness. She has her family by her side, with her sister always there to listen, and she sees thats all she really needs. Abigail realizes that life isn't perfect, but along the way things get better, and she finds the right man for her. When her family is forced to separate she gathers the strength...more
Written with a different narrative structure than most memoir, Safekeeping is one scene after another, jewels without the metal. Stripped of conjunction, filler, connection, the stories never feel bereft. This book made me think I'd like to spend time with Abigail Thomas, with the sort of love and kindness her characters come to value. A coming of age tale for adults. A beautiful book.
Safekeeping by Abigail Thomas goes into the life of a woman who has endured many trials and tribulations. It is almost like a diary of life experiences from the authors perspective. She shares her feelings and memories and how they have shaped her overtime. From her early teen pregnancy, to raising 3 kids, even going through 3 different marriages, not to mention dealing with her second husbands death, it is safe to say she has been through a lot. Through all of this it gives the reader a unique...more
I liked this book quite a bit, and found it inspiring (in terms of form), but I wanted to like it more. I had heard so much about it, that I thought it would be more innovative in terms of form. I ended up thinking it was mostly just non-fiction Lydia Davis (who herself writes what could be called disguised non-fiction or prose that certainly doesn't dwell on the distinction).
The writing in some of the sections is lovely, but some are very...conversational. I like the wry approach she takes to...more
Mike Tager
Beautifully written snapshots of a regular life. Not a pretty life, but a messy one. And the only thing extraordinary about it is the grace and delicacy with which she captures it. If you like non-fiction/memoir, this one's for you. If you don't like non-fiction/memoir, just pretend it's a novel and it's STILL for you. Just read it.
I loved the format of this book. It's written in short chapters or vignettes of experiences and moments in the authors life that don't follow the traditional narrative of a memoir. Instead, she uses beautiful language to capture the significance of everyday moments. Quick, sweet read.
Abigail Thomas is, quite simply, the bees knees. This memoir is simply written, an extremely speedy read, but a rewarding one. Thomas' understated take on the second wave ideal, that women should be telling the small stories of their lives as loudly and often as possible, ends up offering a compelling picture of a life played out through moments, not to mention a strong and unapologetic narrator who every girl can envy, or wish to have as a grandmother. Safekeeping is also cool because it comple...more
I like Thomas' second memoir a lot better, though this book was enchanting in its own way. Safekeeping consists of a series of extremely short, non-chronological vignettes from Thomas' life. Often it feels more like a book of prose-poetry than a memoir. Though the sections are out of order in time, I still found there to be a coherent narrative. I think you just have to go into the book expecting perspective and POV to be fractured. The book, too, was haunted by the fact that--having read her se...more
I read this b/c I loved her book "A Three Dog Life," but it wasn't as good. It was just little tidbits from her life and you had to piece them together to get the story, plus in every other one, she referred to herself in the third person and I found that annoying and sometimes confusing. I only kept reading it because I was on the train and had the time and just out of principle that I liked her later book so much. It was a really quick read, and I did find it impressive that she and her third...more
I love the writing style: short, poetic pieces; some written to a husband; some in third person.
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“You had a certain way of saying my name. It was the inflection maybe, something you put into those three syllables. And now you are gone and my name is just my name again, not the story of my life.” 4 likes
“She would (if she could) put her arm around the girl she'd been and try to tell her Take it easy, but the girl would not have listened. The girl had no receptors for Take it easy. And besides, "Hey Jude" was on the radio, it was her prayer, her manifesto, almost her dwelling place. She sang it everywhere. The music made her cry then; it makes her cry now. Listening to it now brings back memories so sharp they taste like blood in her mouth.” 1 likes
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