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A Three Dog Life

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,175 Ratings  ·  1,029 Reviews
When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life. How she built that life is a story of great courage and great ...more
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2006)
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Dec 29, 2014 Sharon rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-read
Abigail Thomas's life changed instantly the day her husband, Rich was hit by a car leaving him with a permanent brain injury. Whilst recovering in hospital, Rich becomes angry and confused which leaves, Abby feeling hurt and upset.

We follow, Abby as she struggles with guilt, loneliness and adjusting to living on her own once her husband is placed into a facility. Abby moves closer to the facility where she visits, Rich on a regular basis. In time, Abby begins to live her life again, which she do
Jul 06, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Inder
Before reading:
Maybe what happens in this book is difficult, but I have the feeling it will have a hopeful message. I need to read something with dogs. You can rely on dogs being there for you when you need them. After the last book read I am so depressed with people.

On completion:
This book did the trick. You ask me how a book where the husband is hit by a car (in April 2000), has near fatal brain damage and comes to permanently loose his short-term memory can be anything but depressing? I will
Feb 17, 2008 Keleigh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: schooldaze
This book struck me as both straightforward and subtly complex. The language is simple and unassuming, yet the attention to detail creates a much more layered and nuanced portrait than first perceived. I was intrigued, albeit occasionally confused, by the way Thomas hopskotched through time, shifting between present and past tense without ever truly grounding me in a “now.” I felt this was craftily intentional, conveying the “eternal present tense” that her husband now lives in, and she has been ...more
Opening Line: “This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt. Everything else changes.”

Stephen King is quoted (on the cover) of this book as saying “The best memoir I have ever read.” Well I wouldn’t go that far but this was pretty good; honest, moving, funny heartbreaking and literary –the author is a writing teacher, so yeah. Oh and then there are the three dogs and her observations on them, (which are brilliant) and the main reason I decided to read this.

Abigail Thomas lives
Jul 06, 2009 Beejay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-top-shelf
My sister lent me “The Book Thief” with the great recommendation that it was “the best book she had ever read”. I read it, and she was almost right – I give it second place. My sister lent me “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”, telling me that it was a real joy. I hated it so much it’s actually one of those rare books which I couldn’t even finish, and swore not to feel guilty about doing so. My sister lent me “The Faraday Girls”, assuring me it was a quick, easy, delightful read. I finished it ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
Some readers will be disappointed by this brief memoir -- it's not really about the dogs, nor is it about the severe brain injury that incapacitates Abigail Thomas' husband. Rather, it's about Abby trying to make something tenable of a life forever altered by tragedy and loss. Yes, the eponymous three dogs (Australian aborigines who kept warm sleeping next to their dogs called the coldest nights "three dog nights") are one thread of grace, instruments by which Abby learns to live in the moment a ...more
Jul 20, 2014 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Note: I listened to the audio version of this book

This profoundly beautiful story traces the changes in a middle-aged couple's lives after the husband sustains a traumatic brain injury... because he cannot remember his life before, his wife Abigail (author and narrator) reaches across and joins him in his new world. Following her husband's accident (he was tragically hit by a car while out walking the dog), Abigail begins to live alone with their dogs while her husband lives in an assisted livin
This book made me think about why I read. It also made me examine my life a little too.

When I first started with the story, I was not sure I really wanted to continue reading it, but I had started. (It is hard for me to abandon books.) I am glad I did not give up on Abigail's story.

I read because I want to find out things. I am interested in just about anything and if I learn something about a person, a place or a thing, and if the book, or magazine, or news article teaches me something I am a
Abigail Thomas book begins with a blurb that explains that Aborigines used to sleep with their dogs to keep them warm. Really cold night were referred to as "three dog nights." I was totally sucked in after reading that part but as much as I liked the book (maybe 3 1/2 stars would be more appropriate) it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The author's husband suffers a severe traumatic brain injury when he is hit by car. He requires constant care and supervision and he ends up in a locked u
Jan 06, 2009 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would recommend this book to anyone who has gone through a tragedy or lost someone important to them. It also is a great book for anyone who has ever thought, dreamt or is plannng on doing any writing of their own. As a writer myself, I find Thomas truly inspiring because of that fact that she did not start writing until age 47. It's a quick, easy, inspiring read. Go Buy it!
May 31, 2016 Chelsey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
A kind coworker gave me this book when I expressed sadness that it had gone out of print before I got a chance to buy a copy. I read Abigail Thomas's What Comes Next And How To Like It last year (on his recommendation) and fell in love with her effortlessly beautiful musings on life, grief, friendship, love and aging. It also happened to be the perfect time to be given this book as a few weeks later, my 14 year old dog, my baby, passed away. I began reading this the night before he died and it w ...more
Aug 23, 2010 Dinah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
Nobody rips my heart wide open quite like Abigail Thomas. I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Master Class with her in college, and I have never encounter such a straight-shooter in both her demeanor and her writing. There is very little flourish to her memoirs: no padding of metaphors, few run-on sentences, latinate words only when they are exactly appropriate. This woman has an extraordinary gift for staring her very ordinary, and very difficult life straight in the face, and sketching its l ...more
Abigail Thomas' "A Three Dog Life" is a jumbled up mess of a memoir that is out of control and incredibly difficult to follow. Is it about her three dogs? Is it about using the three dogs to cope after his husband's accident? Is it about her husband Rich's irreversible brain damage from the accident? Is it about her writing? These four concepts are meshed together in a stream of consciousness style that left me scratching her head and wondering who in their right mind would publish something so ...more
Aug 10, 2011 Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I scooped up several copies of Abigail Thomas' memoir, A THREE DOG LIFE, after hearing her read at a local, indepdendent bookseller a couple of years ago. The seal of approval on the cover by Steven King noting it as "The best memoir I have ever read." was certainly intriguing, but I was more taken by her and the glimpse she gave us into her life.

Simply told, in April 2001, Thomas' husband Rich took their dog Harry for a walk and was hit by a car. The accident shattered his skull and the life th
Dec 10, 2007 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memoirs are a tricky thing to read. Some feel self-indulgent and egotistical, some feel too intrusive and private and others keep you guessing why this person felt the need to write about their life. This memoir is hard to categorize. It's short, choppy, a bit meandering, and the title is deceiving. It's not about dogs, it's not even really about her husband's accident, it's more about her. Just her. Should her life stand still because her husband has no past, no future, and barely a present tim ...more
Jan 04, 2008 Inder rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dogs, memoir, read-2008
Abigail Thomas's husband of 13 years was hit by a car and suffered a traumatic brain injury, leaving him without any short term memory and unable to process most normal conversation. This is her memoir of coping with this tragedy.

I'm not going to pretend that this is a "fun" book to read, although sometimes it is. Ms. Thomas has a dry, self-deprecating wit that you can't resist.

However, I will say that this is one of the most beautiful memoirs I've read in some time. Every simple, spare sentence
Tony Bertauski
Feb 18, 2011 Tony Bertauski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My wife adores this book. That, and the fact that it recognizes the majesty of dogs, I had to pick it up.

It's an easy read. A stream of consciousness voice that flits through the details of her husband's tragedy that leaves him with brain damage and the voice of a sage. His quips drop like Zen koans, cutting through preconceptions, like poetic innocence. These scenes with her husband are the most compelling.

I didn't realize, at first, that this was something like a collection of essays. So it do
What it is: A beautifully written memoir about an 60-ish woman who has lost her husband to an auto accident - not physically, but mentally and emotionally. The brain trauma left Rich unable to care for himself and too difficult to be cared for by Abigail.

What it isn't: A place for Abigail to vent, feel sorry for herself and be the hero.

What it is: An account of the healing that takes place in Abigail's life with aid of her three dogs. A straight forward discussion of the reality of her life. Sim
Aug 06, 2012 Nancy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Wonderful, wonderful writing. Although I have nowhere near the life crisis to live with she had, I am much the same age and many things she said hit me as true for me. This is a keeper for me. (Since I have so little room for more books in my life, most books I read these days get donated to the library when I am finished.) I will go back to 2 paragraphs and a sentence on pages 169-170. "When I was young, the future was where all the good stuff was kept, the party clothes, the pretty china, the ...more
Jul 27, 2008 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, although it was difficult to read at times. Not because of the writing - Thomas' writing is thoughtful, witty, easy-to-read. But the topic - what happens when someone significant in your life is altered mentally - can be uncomfortable and it's one that most of us will face. As Alzheimer's runs in my family, I probably will encounter it with my parents - and my husband may face it with me. How do you survive having to put your partner in a nursing home when he's a physically-he ...more
Apr 26, 2009 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned from this book that it is possible to love someone so much that regardless of how they have changed, or why, or the fact there is no future you can continue to love that person, while still maintaining your own life. And the dogs made it possible I think. Amazingly coincidental, I began and read most of this book on 4/24/09; the 9 year anniversary of the car accident that injured the author's husband and changed her life forever.

Abigail Thomas has a wonderful writing style. I've order
Jodi Sh.
Jan 19, 2015 Jodi Sh. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I'm so glad I read this in 2015. That way I don't have to decide between House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home and A Three Dog Life for best book I've read all year.

In Vivian Gornick's terms: The situation is simple: Thomas's husband suffers severe brain trauma, such that he is always in the present moment. Always in the now. The past is no longer a memory, it never existed.

The story , however is breathtaking. It's the story of adjusting to life, of love, of memory and loss of mem
Stephen King declared this "Best Memoir I Have Ever Read." I have to say, I am surprised by that. I did enjoy the book but in many ways found it somewhat uninspiring. Abigail Thomas details the difficulty of trying to live happily after a loved one sustains a life-altering brain injury.

My problem with the story was that I felt she was just kind of existing, but not really enjoying her life as much as she could. To me, she was in a holding pattern. Abigail was simply trying to make the best of a
Aug 31, 2012 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I got this book because of the endorsement by Stephen King...and this is the one time my favorite author has let me down.

This book is about Abigail Thomas, mostly. It's about how her husband is severely injured when he is hit by a car when walking their dog, which causes him to lose part of his brain and all of his short term memory. The story itself is compelling, but the way this story is told was not, for me at least.
I guess the style of writing that Thomas entails is more stream of conscious
Jun 28, 2007 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abigail Thomas's husband Rich sustained a brain injury after they had been married for 13 years. His ability to process new (or retain old) information was almost entirely destroyed. Thomas describes the stages of grief and self-doubt she experienced after her husband's accident. And the tremendous simplicity of these stages is what makes them so beguiling: the abstract concept of losing your husband -- of your husband essentially dying but continuing to live -- is one that on the surface seems ...more
Jan 28, 2009 Perri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abigail Thomas's memoir is an account of her life after her husband is hit by a car and suffers permanent brain damage. Thomas' struggle to redefine her existence parallels her husband's struggle to assign meaning, perspective, and context to the events happening around him. Her writing style is simple and rings true. One of my favorite passages reads:

I thought that not accepting meant turning my face to the wall, unable to function. So now today I look up the word acceptance and the definition
Mar 05, 2011 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I finished reading this book on a quiet Saturday morning in my apartment, a warm coffee in hand, the pitter-patter of rain filtering in through my window. Perfect.

When I initially started reading this memoir, I couldn't possibly imagine how much I'd come to like it. Initially, I was struck by the disjointedness of Thomas' memories - I must have been trying too hard to make sense of their chronology. When I finally let that go, the wonderfulness of the story crept up on me. Its basis is sad, und
Jul 21, 2014 Correen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I had to think about this book for a bit. Thomas writes about her experience after her husband was hit by a car and incurred a serious head injury. Her story demonstrates her excellent writing skills, ability to describe emotions, and to give a vivid picture of her life. She is not complaining, just explaining and probably simultaneous processing the limitations of her life -- although in many ways she has great freedom.

My first response to her writing was to compare her experience to mine as a
Jan 21, 2009 Chana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in a sparse prose that is exactly right. There is the tragedy which is sudden and heartbreaking, but it happens in a moment and one can't go back. Listen to this, "I thought I had accepted Rich's accident, even though I kept putting myself in a place where it hadn't happened yet. Rich hadn't left for his walk. I could stop him at the door. I thought that not accepting meant turning my face to the wall, unable to function. So now today I look up the word acceptance and the definition is " ...more
Dec 28, 2008 Nanosynergy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nanosynergy by: 2006 Washington Post Book World Best Book of the Year
I was underwhelmed by this highly-rated memoir (Stephen King described it as a punch to the heart. USA Today said, [it:] "offers hope that life can retain its richness after a tragedy." This is a loosely told story of five years in the author's life after her third husband is hit by a car (as a result of chasing their dog into traffic) and suffers permanent, severe brain damage. But at its root, this is Thomas dealing with guilt -- for choosing not to bring her husband home to care for him, for ...more
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“It's easy now - it's middle-aged lady, nobody's looking, nobody notices. I go without lipstick if I feel like it, and I always wear my comfy clothes. It's a life with fewer distractions, but should something beautiful show up, a middle-aged woman is free to stare.” 13 likes
“There is nothing like calamity for refreshing the moment. Ironically, the last several years my life had begun to feel shapeless, like underwear with the elastic gone, the days down around my ankles.” 11 likes
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