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Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,524 ratings  ·  223 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; the ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Anchor (first published 2000)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  1,524 ratings  ·  223 reviews

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Elizabeth Andrew
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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
Nov 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Feb 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This is a lovely, lovely, little book. With strong, simple words, the author illuminates the everyday events that make up a life. Each "chapter" (some only a few sentences long) is a complete and beautiful thought. The author is totally honest with herself - and us - which is not always an easy thing. Thank you, Kelsey, for lending me this book! ...more
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, much more from her. After reading the last page I wished I could be transported into her M ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sooo sooo lovely. I am so glad I read this book. It was the perfect kind of memoir, snippets or stories, narritves that are moments. It is the kind of book that makes me want to write again, that makes me miss it, and those are the best kinds.
Aug 08, 2008 rated it liked it
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
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,
Travel Writing
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I fell in love with Abigail Thomas when I read her memoir A Three Dog Life.

I fell in love with her all over again while reading this non-linear, memoir with spurts of truth and honesty and pain, interspersed with an orgy, lust giving way to nurturing of Jimi Hendrix, the friendship with her sister, a divorce, depression, kindness, parents, death, and birth.

It is so poignant to read a woman write about her life when she has learned to truly live it. Her second husband is dying, her children are
Julene Bair
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jennifer O'Kelly
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book in the way I might enjoy a light (but not vacuous) conversation. I mean this kindly. While I didn't find the prose itself particularly remarkable, there is a sense in which this seems appropriate for the content. It feels unburdened. The form, which consists of a series of fragments, works well for a memoir - giving the sense that the author hasn't tried too hard to maintain a definitive narrative, and so, hasn't lost the truth in the telling. Moments can emerge more honestly ...more
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What happens to love after the marriage is over? That's what is kept safe in this stash of remembrances about her second husband. Thomas collects her story like spare change tossed in a jar on the top of a dresser. When you retrieve the coins one by one you're amazed by the fortune inside. I'm addicted to her style of writing by the fingerful. There's only one problem: she's done telling before I'm done listening. ...more
Jim Breslin
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Safekeeping is not your typical memoir. The small bursts of flash creative nonfiction give the reader glimpses into Abigail Thomas's life and relationships with her family. She recounts the sublime, short moments in her life - a phone call with her sister or her ex-husband sitting on her couch - and reflects on what these memories have come to mean in her life. This is a reminder to live slow and cherish the ordinary days that make up our lives. ...more
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Mar 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Tyler Bosma
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the kind of book that makes me wish I'd given fewer other books 5-star ratings, so that this would be more meaningful. What an interesting way of writing a memoir -- plucking both big and small, beautiful and poignant moments, and getting at what those little life moments really are. I don't know how to describe it other than that... Just stunning with little pops of heartbreaking and heartwarming throughout, and written so beautifully, with nothing showy or ostentatious. Gonna definitel ...more
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I enjoy this author, who was probably around my age when she wrote these autobiographical vignettes subtitled “ true stories from a life.” Unlike her newest book What Comes Next And How To Like It, this one covers the entire arc of her life from having her first child at 18 to being a Grandmother of school age children.
Some of her life experiences are deeply personal, some universal, and all of them I found interesting.
When asked in an interview what she had learned at age 73 Abigail Thomas sa
Jenny Blounts
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 26, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Nancy Sharp
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa Roney
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-essays
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. ...more
Gabi Coatsworth
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This wasn't what I expected. While it is true that there's some beautiful writing, the very short essays, sometimes even just paragraphs, make for a choppy experience. Thomas goes from first to third person, perhaps to distance herself from some of the events, but I think I would have preferred a complete narrative rather than 'scenes from a life' which is what this is. On the other hand, she conveys a lot in a very short space, which is something to be admired, if not loved. ...more
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Pam Oconnor
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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." ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The last of my Abigail Thomas memoirs. With ease and beauty, Thomas turns simple thoughts and feelings into poetry. I truly hope she is curled up with her dogs right now, scribbling her thoughts on a notepad so that I have more of her work to look forward to.
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finished this all in one sitting on my long train ride through Greece. I love the format of this book - moments strung together to show a narrative. It’s not the whole story, as in every word and thought, and it also is. Loved this!
Kristin Boldon
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, 2019, 2020, new, re-read, own, mfa
First read: A spare, lovely book that memorializes a second marriage.

Second read: this book contains multitudes. The short sections are marvels of economy and have so much depth of emotion. I am in awe of this book. Why did I only give it 4 stars the first time?
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