The Journal Keeper: A Memoir
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The Journal Keeper: A Memoir

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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  333 ratings  ·  96 reviews
A teacher and practitioner of creative writing gives the journal treatment to six years of her life. In her 60s, Theroux (Giovanni's Light: The Story of a Town Where Time Stopped for Christmas, 2002, etc.) recorded her thoughts from 2000 to 2005. Here she presents them in a memoir of passing notions she considers worth savoring. She reflects on the pleasures of authorship...more
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 2010)
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Sharon
Feb 28, 2013 Sharon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who enjoy journal reading or writing
Shelves: memoirs
This book originally caught my eye because I keep personal journals and enjoy looking for new ideas by studying the journals of others. In addition to keeping journals, Phyllis Theroux is an essayist, columnist, teacher and author, whose work has been published in such critically acclaimed newspapers as the New York Times and the Washington Post. The Journal Keeper represents snippets from her journals dated 2000-2005 – years in which several transformative events took place in her life.

I find...more
Linda
This genre is a favorite of mine, and THE JOURNAL KEEPER: A MEMOIR is an inspiring look at a writer's life. Theroux was another one of those accidental finds. I was looking for Paul Theroux and when I found Phyllis I was intrigued, thinking she might be one of Paul's ex-wives. I couldn't wait to absorb the "dish". But she isn't. She is an introspective lady of a certain age who lives with her mother. She fusses with her children and knows the gossip of the small town that she has moved to. At on...more
Sally Wessely
I was led to this book by several women who are blogging buddies. Since one had quoted parts of the book on her blog, I was interested and intrigued by what I read. When another sent me a personal email and suggested I would really enjoy reading it, I knew it was the next book I needed to read.

This was one of those books that I hated to finish. I wanted to keep reading Phyllis Theroux's journal. The wisdom and insight about life that shared in this book practically leaped off the page as I read...more
Diane Yannick
What a wonderful peek into the mind of a writer who takes the time to ponder the complexities of relationships. She weaves her own wisdom, referencing
writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Tolle, Vonnegut, and Pascal. She writes with a freshness that I found inspirational. The author's relationship with her mother was tender and fleshed out for the reader with moments rather than big life events. Her indecision about marriage in her mid sixties was shared with brutal honesty. It made me think about how...more
Mary Whisner
I really liked some passages and didn't care so much for others. In a way, reading the journal entries--notes about the author's life and observations of life around her--was like walking through a gallery where you love some paintings but not others.

I enjoyed reading about the day-to-day life of a writer (a professional writer generally on the edge if financial disaster) and teacher. She's in in sixties in the years covered by the journals, just a few years ahead of me in the aging game, and s...more
Anna Napolitano
This was an absolutely thought provoking and enligthening read. I felt so much of my own inner self through Phyllis' journal entries and life experiences. I found much wisdom and some tears in her memoir, but took away a new understanding of what love is, on different levels. Wonderful book!!!
Gail Cooke


It is rare but it does happen. You begin to read a book, a memoir and are suddenly struck by a writer's openness, honesty, truth. The author seems to be speaking directly to you, sharing confidences, bits of wisdom, and you feel as though you've found a new friend. That was my response after happily coming upon THE JOURNAL KEEPER.

Phyllis Theroux, a writer of note, began this journal when she was 61; it follows six years of her life. Describing her past in the Introduction she tells us she is div...more
Julie Luekenga
I'm a sucker for a good memoir, even better if I get a glimpse in the writing life of the author. This book fit the bill. Her style is thoughtful and her words flow pretty and poetic.

The author uses her years of journal entries to piece together a memoir including, briefly, her divorce and launch into writing as a career, her relationship with her mother (who lived with her until her mother passed away), and her discovery of love again later in life, in her 60s.

She even addresses, as an epilog...more
Kim
Thank you to Cassie who gave me this book for my birthday! This is the story of part of a woman's life as told through her journal entries. It deals mostly with her caring for her sick mother and her relationships (both friendly and romantic). I thought this was a really interesting way to write a memoir. What I really appreciated was how observant the author was -- how much she noticed things -- and also how she could come up with really insightful thoughts about the things she observed. There...more
Dale
The following is taken from the Journal Keeper website .. I could not invent a more beautiful description of this book. It has come at the perfect time in my life.

Theroux is a natural story teller. She slips her arm companionably into yours, like an old friend going for a stroll. But her stride is long, her eye sharp, and she swings easily between subjects that occupy most people who are mid-way through their lives: love, loneliness, children, growing old, financial worries, spiritual growth, an...more
Lisa
Aug 23, 2010 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: memoir
5 Stars. There was so much wisdom here. I saved this book to read at night when I felt the most receptive to it. Phyllis Theroux adds quotes from certain writers that she admires to her journal, quotes that strike her as gems of wisdom. I found Theroux's own personnal journal observations to sparkle just as brightly, and were often even more accessible. I wanted to underline certain passages and share them with friends. I couldn't though, this was a library copy. So I will have to have my own co...more
Catherine
This is a beautiful, slow, sweet book - an afternoon spent in a rocking chair, soaking up autumn sunlight, given textual form. I loved meeting the people Theroux loves and values - be they her family or her favorite writers - and I have dogeared many a page corner so that I can later find a quote I love. There's something so beautifully and quietly true about these nuggets of wisdom Theroux writes while simply waiting to see, as she puts it, what her mind has to tell her each morning. There's ho...more
Karen
I thought this was a wonderful, wise memoir by a very interesting woman. There were so many passages that I flagged for repeat reading, and so many thoughts she shared that I had to smile and nod my head at. Thoughts on aging, relationships, late-life romance, and our journey on this planet were mostly relevant to me, being of approximately the same age as she is. Some of her angst would be considered overwrought by women not as well off (in spite of her occasional worries about what I perceived...more
Kirsten Bett
I really did like this book... I am reviewing it a few weeks after being pleased I finished it. But now I find myself thinking about the contents, (re)starting a journal myself after a quite intense week. I like the way the author gets you to know her life, her friends, her family and the way she talks about her life although sometimes I find she does go on a bit about her doubts etc- yeah yeah enough already I find myself thinking. Mostly she does stop then and does something very positive and...more
Kasey Jueds
I wasn't sure I'd like this book after reading the introduction, which I found a little... sentimental, I guess, and a little predictable. But the rest of it (which is to say, about 99% of it, since the intro. is only maybe 4 pages long) was a joyful surprise: smart, deeply thoughtful, wide-ranging, not at all predictable, and (hooray) not at all sentimental. Phyllis Theroux writes beautifully about a big variety of topics: family, growing older, mature love, her mother's very fascinating and un...more
Writer's Relief
This memoir covers six years of the author's life. Reading this book is like enjoying a cup of tea and conversation with a friend. She reflects on issues that concern us all, especially as we age: finances, spirituality, friendship, loneliness, and death. By journaling her thoughts, Theroux prepares herself to face the impending death of her elderly mother. As a spiritual person, she comes to believe that "a hand much larger and more knowing than my own was guiding my life and pen across the pag...more
Alicia
If you've thought about keeping a journal, but didn't know where to start, I highly recommend this lovely book. Phyllis Theroux has written a memoir based on her journals from 2000 to 2005, a very significant period in her life. She had given up her urban writer's life to move to a small Virginia town to care for her elderly mother. She was divorced and her kids were adults with lives of their own. It's all here -- loss, loneliness, money worries, growing old, and, surprisingly, the possibility...more
K2 -----
This book is a selection taken from Theroux's journals she kept over many years. As a writer who was divorced with two children she has had financial concerns and insecurities that are front and center in her writing. Her dear relationship with her mother is a pleasure to share as are her candid comments about her fear of aging. There were many things that she wrote I wanted to remember and may be worthy of quoting and her literary references were fun to track down too. I plan to pass it along t...more
Erika
What a beautiful book! Theroux chronicles several years of her life, and even though the entries are edited, she doesn't spare herself. Apart from beautiful, lyrical prose that leaps off the page, she includes quotes and passages from her own reading that have meaning to her. She describes her journal as a "flashlight in darkened woods", and advises the reader to write towards the light, helpful and welcome guidance, because so often I find my own journal keeping gravitating towards the dark emo...more
Eileen
I started this book 7-8 months ago and set it aside. It spurred me to start journaling. But for some reason I set it down and recently finished the book. I wish I had kept going when I started it, because the part I read was probably the best part. I probably stopped journaling about the same time I stopped reading the book. I would like to start again.

The book is the journal of Phyllis Theroux. Gives a peek into 5-6 years of her life. Some of it interesting, some so not. But it is real life. M...more
Ilene
At first I wondered whether I even liked this book as it seemed ldisconnected and in some cases boring snippets. I was glad i kept at it as it became a fascinating work towards the end when the author speaks of her love and doubts when she meets a man she opened her heart to. She Speaks of her fears openly. Her ideas about journaling were both instructive and inspirational. I will likely reread the beginning to see if I missed something but after all a journal does contain snippets that may cont...more
Laura
A slow, meditative book of the author's journal excerpts. Her life themes are family, her relationship with and loss of her beloved mother, wiring, financial security, romance in later years. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Sonyajohnston
The author convinced me that our journals should not be published. Too much of her thoughts on things. I wanted to bop her over the head a few times. She expected others to change the way they were but never expected that she should change. If you are in relationships you need to allow them to be themselves. She expected people to change or she wouldn't have them in her life. If you read the book hopefully you will see what I mean by this. I don't know if I will read anymore of her books. I thi...more
Suzanne Myers
This is a memoir I will read many times over. This book so often framed my own thoughts and experiences and gave them order. The journaling style flows and takes the reader through so many years seemlessly. She is authentic, always honest about all of her relationships. Life, no matter the age is ever changing ... old habits to either embrace or leave behind.I highly recommend this book especially to empty nesters but it certainly leaves one with the much wisdom for women of all ages.It reminds...more
Nunn
Very thoughtful and timely for me in this transitional life stage between work and retirement.
Linda
It was my good fortune to read a pre-publication edition of this wise and wonderful memoir. The Journal Keeper is an intimate look into the life, heart and mind of a older middle-aged woman whose creative turn of phrase gives added dimension to her personal journey. We meet people important to her...her mother, friends, students, children. We travel from Virginia to Italy, California, D.C., New York. She shares her reading list of books and authors who have inspired her. What a generous soul. He...more
Agnes
I heard Theroux speak at a memorial for Carla Cohen, the owner of Politics and Prose, in Washington, and thought I might like to read some of her work. Maybe I've read too many memoirs over the past few years and wasn't in the mood to follow the writer's ups and downs over the years-- her financial problems after her divorce seemed overwhelming at times. I liked reading about her relationship with her mother, which was sweet, and was glad all worked out for her in the end. But I skipped a number...more
Shannon
Amazing. Rarely does a book capture me and leave me quoting it long after the book is closed. As a journaler myself, I found this book inspiring and intensely motivational. I even took to keeping a tablet nearby to write down my favorite passages. I never do that. This book is an inspiring, light-bursting gift to journalers everywhere. I am so glad this title caught my attention at the library. I feel like Phyllis and I are friends now sharing our deepest thoughts on a porch swing somewhere. I w...more
Ms. Knorr
This book was a highly emotional journey into a middle-aged writer's life. I enjoyed her reflections on literature.

It was also very helpful to hear about how she approaches a writing career. However, I did not appreciate her very anxious approaches towards her fears about not having enough money. I also found it ironic that she did not want to be self-centered, yet she always described her own problems in detail. In a way, she taught me to display gratitude instead of complaining.
Karelle
A few years from the journal of Phyllis Theroux. Lots of wonderful nuggets for inspiration and thought. Phyllis suggests that "a journal should be a wise friend who helps create your own enlightment". She doesn't use her journal to rant or vent, so it's very positive and uplifting and a medium for processing events and her reactions to them. We only see a fragment of Phyllis' life. It left me wanting to know more about her children, her "horrendous" marriage and her friends.
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Phyllis Theroux is an essayist, columnist, teacher and author. Born in San Francisco, California, she is the critically acclaimed author of numerous books, including "California and Other States of Grace", "Peripheral Visions", "Nightlights: Bedtime Stories for Parents in the Dark", "The Book of Eulogies", "Serefina Under the Circumstances" and "Giovanni’s Light". "The Journal Keeper: A Memoir" wa...more
More about Phyllis Theroux...
Giovanni's Light: The Story of a Town Where Time Stopped for Christmas The Book Of Eulogies Night Lights: Bedtime Stories for Parents in the Dark The Good Bishop: The Life of Walter F. Sullivan California and Other States of Grace: A Memoir

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“My nose remembers more than my eyes. The sharp oily smell of eucalyptus combines with afternoon dust from the hockey field. But my heart feels the different then and now.” 5 likes
“An enlightened person raises the level of the consciousness of the entire community.” 3 likes
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