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What Comes Next and How to Like It

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From the bestselling author of A Three Dog Life, which "shines with honest intelligence" (Elizabeth Gilbert): a fresh, exhilarating, superbly written memoir about aging, family, creativity, tragedy, friendship, and the richness of life.

What comes next? What comes after the devastating loss of Abigail's husband, a process both sudden and slow? What form does her lifelong platonic friendship take after a certain line is crossed? How to cope with her daughter's diagnosed illness? Or the death of her beloved dog? Is life worth living without three cocktails before dinner? How do you paint the ocean on a sheet of glass?

And how to like it? How to accept, appreciate, enjoy? Who are our most trusted, valuable companions and what will we do for them? Instead of painting an ocean, paint a forest, turn it over, scrape the surface, and presto: there is the ocean. When you've given up, when you least expect it, there it is.

What Comes Next and How to Like It is an extraordinarily moving memoir about many things, but at the center is a steadfast friendship between Abigail Thomas and a man she met thirty-five years ago. Through marriages, child-raising, the vicissitudes and tragedies of life, it is this deep, rich bond that has sustained her. Readers who loved the perfectly honed observations of a clear-eyed and witty writer (Newsweek) in Thomas's spare, astonishing (Entertainment Weekly) memoir, A Three Dog Life, will relish this beautiful examination of her life today often solitary, but rich and engaging, with children, grandchildren, dogs, a few suitors, and her longtime best friend.

240 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2015

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Abigail Thomas

27 books199 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 479 reviews
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,736 reviews14.1k followers
July 18, 2015
3.5 I am a very picky memoir reader. Don't get me wrong, I love those that turn out to be interesting, not pity memoirs as I call them. This book is done well and I loved reading this author's thoughts and conversations about everything and anything. The title What Come Next, came from her wondering what her life will be like after the death of her husband.

This book celebrates her thirty-five year platonic friendship with Chuck. I loved her relationships and writings about her dogs, past and present. Her love for them definitely shines, as does those relating to her family. Not all the news in these writings are good news, but I feel that the author let us be privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings. I could have happily kept reading, long after the book ended. Her writing is beautiful, thoughtful and honest, amusing at times too as in this passage,

"Then I remember an insight I had when I woke up this morning. The words "yo" and "like" (when beginning a sentence) are not parts of speech at all! They are punctuation. "It's like starting a sentence with a comma," I tell Chuck, "isn't' that brilliant?"

"With a little refinement," he answers, "it might achieve the level of a thought."

Good memoir, with many good thoughts, I quite liked this one.

Profile Image for Camie.
899 reviews186 followers
April 5, 2015
I received this book as an ARC from Schribner publishing.
I am just finishing my tearful first reading of this memoir told in short vignettes, when my daughter Kate calls from an amusement park a few hours away from our house. "Mom, should I get the season passes, they are only the price of going twice? " She is busy, working full time, studying for the MCAT , and raising a seven year old son as a single mom. I know she worries about money and time. In fact they are living here in the big old house where we raised our kids right now before going on to the next big step. My advise without hesitation... buy the passes, make the time to go often, you never get this summer back. You will probably always be busy, but your son will never be seven again.

I have been looking at playsets for our backyard which is as big as a park. They are expensive and don't look very portable. We keep saying it is time to downsize, too much house, too much yard for our diminished time and energy... but my husband and grandson have planted a vegetable garden and spent the first nice day reconnecting the trampoline mat over the ground pit we had dug for it almost 25 years ago. I think I will take my own advise, my grandkids are growing up. I'll order the playset today.

This is a memoir you will devour quickly and then leave on your nightstand to be read again in small savored bits , when you will highlight and write in it's margins. It will be most interesting to those over 50, or perhaps those who have lived through a lot of experiences at a younger age . The author who spares herself few , if any, embarrassing moments is in her 70's , with the wisdom that comes only by dealing with love, raising children, having a career, lifelong friendships, and of course loss, divorce, the death of a spouse, the serious illness of a child, and lastly the aches and pains of both physically and mentally not being able to not live up to your younger self. Having gone through many of these things myself, I was simply captivated by the fact that many of her thoughts so matched my own even though for the most part our lives have been tremendously different. The main message to me was that when really tragic things happen (which they will to us all) the small worries somehow fall away and when we come through the other side of tragedy (as we must all eventually do) we must find ways to once again enjoy and appreciate the small things in life.
The only thing that didn't resonate with me was the author's great love for dogs; hers being too large, messy, and destructive , for my taste. But there's a bit here for you animal lovers too, as she derives much comfort from them as I know very many do. I am forever cursing my small, old , and gray dog whose hair makes my dark hardwood floors a housekeeping nightmare.
If you're like me this book will make you laugh and cry and possibly cringe (again the messy dogs) but most of all make you want to get out there and live. Now , I must go buy more Abigal Thomas books and of course a playset . 5 stars
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 1 book197 followers
October 28, 2018
Abigail Thomas is my favorite writer. But it is a strange, almost incestuous-feeling thing to be reading a book by your favorite writer in which there occurs a scene in which a stranger approaches your favorite writer in a restaurant to tell your favorite writer that she is the stranger's favorite writer, a scene which your favorite writer has taken the time to helpfully write up and include for you in her newest book.

This was not the only cringe I experienced while reading What Comes Next and How To Like It. In fact, for the first section or so I read the book with my hands over my eyes, not wanting to see what was going on. Here was my favorite writer, unspooling, dismantling, diluting her previous work. Here she was, using some of the same exact lines from Safekeeping, but using them worse. Here she was writing herself in a way that was uncomfortably real: Not as the clueless, struggling single mom of Safekeeping, but as a woman who was quite enmeshed and ensconced within the insider baseball of the NYC publishing world. (Sometimes literally insider baseball: One scene takes place at a literary agency baseball game. One can almost smell the bookish sweat of the white male titans of the publishing world, taking a break from work for a bit of manly sport. After all, it's hard work publishing the books of all of your relatives and best friends and lovers…er...ensuring the continuance of the Western literary canon!). Oh no, I thought. Oh no, no, noooooo.

The book gets much better as it goes along. I began to relax. A hundred pages in, I began to glimpse the Abigail Thomas I love, the Abigail Thomas who I think has revolutionized the genre of memoir writing in this country. By the end, she was fully there, all of her. Have I mentioned I love her? I love her. I love the way she makes me think about the world around me, the way she makes me think about art, writing, cooking, memory.

But I'm still disturbed by parts of this book, and not the parts I want to be disturbed by (the parts about life and death, the parts about how many surfaces in a house can be covered in dog urine). What I'm disturbed by is the writing about her daughter's affair. No matter how much justification for it is given (and there is some), it doesn't seem fair as a subject matter. I am not judging Abigail Thomas's parenting choices, but as a reader I don't want to be complicit in her bad ones. And the narrative of the friendship with Chuck, (who seems like a swell guy, I guess, though I began to realize while reading this book that Abigail Thomas may have a problem with thinking men are sweller than they are), is problematized by the insidery-ness of the publishing industry, the idea that perhaps this book is being published for reasons that are unrelated to the quality of the story it's trying to tell.

Perhaps it's inevitable that when it comes to one's favorite writer, one is eventually going to be disappointed. Abigail Thomas is a human being after all, despite the fact that I picture her flying around the treetops in a Greek toga alighting on perfect sentences, perfect observations, and perfect juxtapositions. And I do want more from her, especially on art. I would absolutely purchase and cherish a book that combines her paintings with her writing in some way, or a book that combines her writing about cooking with recipes. Or on writing workshops. Or on cancer. I'd follow her anywhere, really (except into the personal lives of her adult children/grandchildren). Despite all my reservations about this book, I still got to the end, as I always do with her books, wishing there was much, much more.
Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,076 reviews711 followers
April 27, 2017
This is a memoir/meditation of an older person (like me 70+) that recounts scattered snippets of a past and present life while taking an occasional speculative look into the future.

The author's past life was perhaps a bit more complex than average—at one point she mentions that at age thirty-seven she was twice divorced and had four children. Then a later husband died after surviving several years of being brain damaged from an accident. There is no clear chronological accounting of her husbands, but rather the focus of this memoir is more on her relationship with a work colleague who ended up being "a thirty-year friendship that had a hole blown through it, but somehow survived."

The title promises to give an insight into "what comes next," but zigzags back and forth among a discussion of her hobby of painting on glass—something to do when she should be working on her memoir—and her collection of dogs who live and sleep with her as housemates, including accounts of previous generations of dogs. The narrative also covers health issues, both her own and that of others—and includes an extended account of her daughter's bout with cancer.

Struggles to quite smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol are repeatedly mentioned. Symptoms that probably indicate depression are described—at one point she answers the door bell to meet her neighbor saying that her children asked to check to see if she (the author) was dead (apparently she hadn't been answering her telephone). But the overall spirit of the book is more upbeat than these problems might otherwise indicate.

And when the book finally addressed the issue of "what comes next" it shows that there are plenty of things to worry about including death. But all those worries may not happen, except for death of course. The author ponders the meaning of death and struggles to accept its inevitability.
This is uncomfortably real. I'm just poking at death with a long stick to see what happens. (p.102)
I doubt many readers with be satisfied with the narrative's addressing the "how to like it" part of the book's title.
I want to make Death a member of my family. I don't want it to arrive as a stranger. (p.120)
In the following quotation she refers to her body as pleasant accommodations that will leave her homeless when gone.
This body of mine, the one in pink pajamas, the one hanging on to her pillow for dear life, these pleasant accommodations in which I have made my home for seventy years, it's going to die. It will die, and the rest of me, homeless, will disappear into thin air. (p.114)
The one observation I make of the author's circle of friends and family is that some of her closest friends today are the individuals with whom she was most angry at one time or another in her past life. A lesson here seems to be that coming to terms with (i.e. forgiving) past wrongs can lead to a relationship that is perhaps stronger than would have been possible without the difficulties.
Odd, after all we have been through. I don't know that we would have been as close as we are now without the breakage, the damage done. We have built something sturdy out of the wreckage. (p.144)
Perhaps reaching this place of peace is how to like what comes next.
Profile Image for Stuart Smith.
82 reviews82 followers
April 15, 2015
This book already ranks in the top 20 most beautiful books of the year for me. The brilliance in Thomas's writing is that each word, phrase and space is hand selected to form beautiful prose and thought provoking text in both everyday and extraordinary situations. The reader is not left with the feeling of 'why did she leave that out', but rather with a feeling of cultivated and well gardened phrases that say everything that the author's pen wanted to give to reach the reader.
Upon publication, this book received an unfortunate and misguided review from Katherine A. Powers who accused Thomas of being stale and lazy. No offense to Ms. Powers but she and her lazy eye have missed the point of this book altogether. Sit a moment with each section, let it wash over you. Read it once, twice, or even three times. See what is there and what isn't. These are the clippings from a life well lived.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
February 6, 2016
I don't know what to say. So many love fests, but I am not joining the party.  If you want a good memoir for women, mothers, and yes, dog lovers, head straight to Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, the audio that she personally narrates.  Quindlen and Abigail Thomas seem to have a great deal in common,  but the writing talent is owned by Quindlen.

Ms Thomas also read her audio book and did an OK job.  What I disliked the most was that instead of chapter headings  being  read, they felt like bullet  points being ticked off.  Some chapters (vignettes) were only one or two sentences long, then on to another vignette.  Sometimes those thoughts were connected and  sometimes not.  If connected, I thought, why not just keep on with that same chain of thought; why  break it up and make it feel disjointed?  It did not impress me as good writing or good editing.  Nor  was it a good reading.  In a very quiet overall narration,  suddenly  the title SPATULAS was shouted at us, for no apparent reason other than an attempt  at humor.  The author  proved her sense of humor  throughout the book, so that stunt  was unnecessary. 

Maybe I should have looked for the ebook. I did like a few of the ending pieces, and her humor, as I said. 2.5 is all the enthusiasm I can muster.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,603 reviews2,575 followers
April 12, 2016
(3.5) Abigail Thomas writes a particular type of episodic memoir, in which chapters are often just a few sentences or paragraphs long. Safekeeping is the best example of her style, while A Three Dog Life is her best overall (I remember it as one of the first books to turn me on to the memoir genre). I would place this latest book somewhere between those two in terms of quality. I was disappointed to find little mention of the aftermath of her husband Rich’s traumatic brain injury (the subject of A Three Dog Life) – he incurred the TBI in 1997 and died in 2007. Perhaps given the number of years in between, Thomas felt the time for writing about Rich had passed.

Instead, this book is more about simple, everyday life: her new hobby of painting on glass; her children and grandchildren; napping with her hound dogs; volunteering as a hospice caregiver as a way of learning what’s truly important in life; teaching a memoir-writing class to people with cancer, who embody a sense of urgency about documenting their lives; meeting up with old acquaintances; blind dates going wrong; and being taken aback by the ageing process (she’s now into her 70s).

The overarching theme of this memoir is Thomas’s 30-year friendship with Chuck, whom she met when they were colleagues at a publishing company. They took long lunch breaks and perfected the art of wasting time; their proudest idea was for ‘inaction figures’ named Torpor, Languor, and Stupor. Many years afterwards, Thomas was astonished to find out that Chuck was cheating on his wife – with her own daughter, Catherine! When Catherine was later diagnosed with breast cancer, it was an emotional strain for Chuck, too, even though the affair was long over. Negotiating her loyalties to these two loved ones has been one of the central challenges of Thomas’s recent life.

More so than I’ve noticed before, Thomas’s content and attitude are quite similar to Anne Lamott’s. For instance, both are former alcoholics who have jumped on and off the wagon over the years. The observations on writing here are especially reminiscent of Lamott’s Bird by Bird: “What do we use? That’s easy. We use everything. We have our eyes and ears open to snag the lovely and the harsh and the hilarious. There is ruthlessness to all writers.”

“Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid of the mess. The process is a lot like writing. You start with a wisp of memory, or some detail that won’t let you be. You write, you cross out. You write again, revise, feel like giving up. What pulls us through? Curiosity.”

“I am trying to convince myself that failure is interesting…There’s no Indo-European root meaning originally ‘to dare’ or ‘mercy’ or ‘hummingbird’ to make of the whole mess a mysterious poem. I can find no other fossilized remains in the word. Humility comes along on its own dime.”

My favorite individual pieces are just one paragraph each. Here’s a taste of “Chronology”: “I hate chronological order. Not only do I have zero memory for what happened when in what year, but it’s so boring...[it] reinforces the fact the only logical ending for chronological order is death.” In “Hospice,” she accounts for her decision to work with the dying as a volunteer: “I want to make Death a member of my family. I don’t want it to arrive as a stranger.” The chapters are so short that this can be picked up at random in whatever snatches of time a reader has available.

I can see this appealing to fans of Anne Lamott or even Nora Ephron (e.g. I Feel Bad About My Neck) – although Thomas isn’t as humorous in her approach, her thoughts on ageing have a similarly wry quality. This would also serve as an interesting introduction to Thomas’s work for people who don’t like straightforward, birth-onwards autobiographies. It’s not quite as memorable overall as A Three Dog Life, but recommended nonetheless.

(This review originally appeared at Bookkaholic.)
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,255 reviews451 followers
December 13, 2014
This was a good, witty, thought-provoking memoir that I read over a couple of weeks of half-hour lunches, while munching a salad or sandwich. It lends it's self perfectly to that, because most entries are not even a page long, and never more than 3 pages. It's also non-linear, mostly just musings that tell a story of family, friendships, pets and life. I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Lyuda.
538 reviews133 followers
January 31, 2016
1.5 stars

I guess everybody is different in what they like but I honestly don't understand the high ratings for this book. The blurb and all the glowing reviews on the cover from famous authors led me to believe it would be a wonderful memoir from which I would learn "the art of living". Instead, it reads like a blog or diary entries with no particular order or depth. Unless one thinks drinking too much, chain smoking, sleeping with unruly dogs, while enjoying the friendship of a man who had an affair with one's daughter is helpful.
When I reached page 30, I was ready to through the book out of my window. I just had to shake my head on some of the author’s recollections/ musings and reactions…

Here is Ms. Thomas first reaction when she finds her youngest daughter Catherine had an affair with the author’s best friend Chuck (married man with three children, 10 years younger than the writer and 21 years older than her daughter):

“Catherine and I were not estranged! The only part of this that had anything to do with me was that Chuck was my best friend and Catherine was my daughter. What a relief!”

Really, RELIEF????

Or, how about this:

“Why does forgiveness irritate me so much?" I ask Chuck.
"Because it's ultimate act of passive aggression," he says.
"Because it keeps sin alive," says my sister.

Wow, with friends and relatives like this...

And how about the author's admitted cavalier attitude toward men expressed in such a profound statements as:

"I wittily describe them as single-celled organisms."

"Jen (the author's other daughter) is single. We charged the sperm for Jen on my Visa. "All sperm is donor sperm," I told her.

I only kept reading because this was my book club selection. It did get a little better in the second half but not by much.
Profile Image for Lara.
372 reviews45 followers
June 1, 2015
2.5 stars. A quick read of short vignettes that included some poignant thoughts on aging and mortality amongst the banal paragraphs about binge-watching TV shows and far too many descriptions of painting on glass. This is the sort of book that only an established writer can get away with, and for that reason I can't help but feel like it's a little lazy. I wish that Thomas would have delved further into her alcoholism or her daughter's battle with cancer. If this were a friend's blog, I would probably hang on every word, but she's not a friend and I expect more from books.
Profile Image for Nette.
635 reviews61 followers
February 15, 2015
(Another ARC borrowed from the library staff room. God, I love being a library volunteer.)

I like the way this woman writes, so funny and spare and honest. I finished the book in an evening and a morning and was thoroughly entertained. I'd recommend it to anyone.

But I read this the day after I saw the movie "Still Alice" and I had the same problem with the book that I did with the movie. I found it hard to care about the problems -- even the awful, tragic problems -- of this wealthy, attractive white lady with tons of friends and family and good insurance and job opportunities and adulation. Maybe it's because I read "Ghettoside" last week and was swept away the urgency of that world, where so many people don't have the luxury of fussing about old age and elderly dogs and long-ago love affairs because they're dying young from homicide, untreated diabetes, drugs and despair.

It's not fair, and it's not the author's fault, so just ignore this review and read the book and enjoy it.
Profile Image for Katie.
431 reviews
July 3, 2015
Did I read the same book everyone else did?! I don't get what anyone sees in this book. It isn't cohesive at all and I feel I learned nothing deep from it because nothing happens. Yes, things happen.in her life, sad things, but she doesn't write them through to completion to offer any significant impact on the reader. very disappointed in this work.
Profile Image for Chelsey.
244 reviews113 followers
June 5, 2016
(3.5 stars)

Before this book, I had no idea who Abigail Thomas was, and through reading this, I feel like I've known her for years. She's praised as one of the most wonderful memoirists by Stephen King, and I can totally see why. Thomas has such a unique way of telling her life stories, and they ARE stories. The book is made up of tiny thoughts and selections of writing usually no longer than three pages but as short as two sentences. She sees life through a methodical lens, and writes it down with prose reminiscent of poetry. I tabbed a ton of quotes throughout my reading, but my favourite one was this:
"Neurosis is for the young, who think they are made of time."

The book is mostly about her long friendship with a man ten years her junior, named Chuck. He is her confidant, the one who makes her laugh, the prime witness of her life. But their friendship endures a harsh strain, and this book addresses it, as well as how they proceed through it. Sometimes their relationship seemed odd to me, but then I would remind myself, human connections are beyond complex and this one is no exception.

The book is structured using Thomas's new love of painting and her continuous love for her house full of dogs, but I felt like the painting was perhaps the weakest part of the book. I loved seeing her daily life, and her family, and her career and her up and down friendship with Chuck. Regardless, I flew through it and will definitely go back to read her first book (A Three Dog Life) in the future!

5 reviews
July 29, 2015
This book left me cold on several levels.

More than anything else, I found Ms. Thomas and virtually all the people she describes in this memoir to be not-very-nice, self-absorbed people.

Despite its title, the book offers neither advice nor examples on dealing with "what comes next", unless waiting 30 years to dull the pain is considered a strategy. That, plus start drinking first thing in the morning.

Ms. Thomas tells the story of her granddaughter telling her single mom that she wished she had a father, to which the little girl's aunt offers, "Yeah, well my son wants a unicorn." If you, like Ms. Harris, think that is just hilarious, then perhaps you will enjoy the book far more than I did.
Profile Image for Khulud Khamis.
Author 2 books91 followers
June 17, 2019
I read this as a follow up on Thomas's memoir Three Dog Life. This is a beautiful memoir about living, a lasting friendship, mother and daughters relationship, and the love of dogs. I have fallen in love with Abigail Thomas's writing - it is genuine and unassuming, and above all, she writes with courage and honesty, which are essential for personal connection between a text and a reader.
Profile Image for Marla.
1,260 reviews216 followers
August 24, 2017
I have mixed feelings about this book. Some parts I really enjoyed and some parts I wanted to skip over. The setup was a little weird for me. I think you will either like this or not. I'm in the so-so category. It just didn't move me.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,219 reviews
April 20, 2015
Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, “Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” I have never read an author who is as honest about her life as Abigail Thomas; there doesn’t seem to be a corner of her mind or soul or life that, upon reflection, she isn’t willing to share how she felt at the time, decisions she made, or how she responded. Hers is a life fully lived, but not without significant challenges: three marriages, life as a single mother, her career, her husband’s brain injury and subsequent death, her daughter’s breast cancer, her own struggle with alcohol and nicotine. She also shares the playful because her life has also been filled with joy: many moments of her life-long friendship with Chuck Verrill, reconnecting with an old boyfriend, her thoughts about an aging, not so slender body, being nurtured by her many dogs and much, much more.

Her friendship and rich discussions with Chuck permeate this memoir and scaffold her life. I love a woman who returns to the dictionary as often as she to discover the true meaning of language, perhaps to understand life more clearly. Was innocence the opposite of irony? Is it an “enhancement of life or a scrim that keeps us at a remove.”…”What is it? What are we longing for?” she asks, and he answers, “There is only the longing.”

Told in brief chapters of only a few pages with exquisite language, her insights sometimes sent me reeling and at other times, stopped me in my tracks with her searing honesty. “The only cure for the fear of death is death. It isn’t just the dying part; it’s the thought of the day coming when I will have already been dead five, ten, two hundred years.”

“I have no use for the future and it has little use for me. I exist in the present. But I live in dread, whose roots are in the future.”
“What can come?” “Can” is scarier than “will.”

Reading this second memoir, I wanted at times for her to take better care of herself and kick the dogs out of her bed. Knowing how Abigail Thomas has courageously and pragmatically lived her life, I want only happiness for her in the days ahead, my magical thinking again. I want her daughter, Catherine, to remain cancer-free and for Chuck, to get that much needed liver transplant, and for her children and grandchildren to have all the time they need with her.

Profile Image for Traci.
47 reviews10 followers
July 26, 2015
*I received a copy of this book thanks to a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I am finally getting around to doing a review of What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir after receiving it several months ago. I was really hoping to like it much more, but found it lacking the usual emotion and feeling of a memoir. Instead, it seemed more of a series of snippets of various experiences, in no particular order. I thought the description by another reviewer was very fitting, as she called them "stream-of-consciousness vignettes".

There were a few recurring themes throughout, that of the author's long-term friendship with a man named Chuck, and of aging in general. However, I didn't feel that Thomas delved very deeply into anything, and the book read more like blog or diary entries. It almost seemed as if she was simply detailing many events as an impartial observer, rather than actually living through the events. Also, due to the title, I thought that she would certainly be relating how she coped after her husband's accident and eventual death. Oddly enough, she mentions her husband only a few times and simply refers to him being hit by a car and never being the same.

Overall, if I could give partial stars, I'd rate this a 2.5, but this just wasn't a book that spoke to me. Again, I'm definitely in the minority, as it has many more 4 and 5 star ratings than lower ratings. I'll just chalk it up to the fact that everyone is different, and we aren't all going to feel exactly the same about a particular book and that's what makes sites such as Goodreads interesting. :)
Profile Image for Lynne Spreen.
Author 13 books183 followers
April 8, 2015
When I read a memoir, I hope to be at least one of the following: inspired, motivated, entertained, enlightened, educated, or moved. There might be other qualities, but you get the idea. There has to be a takeaway.

In What Comes Next, written by a woman in her 70s, I didn't get much of anything, aside from a few entertaining chapters (all very short), and a few pithy phrases. Her life theme, in retrospect, seemed to be, "You can't control anything so don't try. Just live however you want, with as little effort as possible." So the main value of this book for me was to see/feel one old person's experience. Like a series of snapshots of a life. It wasn't even moving enough to be depressing.

The book consists of stream-of-consciousness vignettes. The author's viewpoint can be summed up in this advice she is tempted to give people in their 20s: "Forget career, forget the future, forget existential worries, just get yourselves a couple of dogs, and everything will be all right."

According to other reviewers, her earlier books are much better, so I wonder if this is representative of her general decline. If so, I hope she gets help. In essence, What Comes Next is a sad depiction of one person's experience of aging.
Profile Image for loretta.
465 reviews10 followers
May 24, 2015
Abigail Thomas's newest book covers life after her husbands death, a friendship that survives and grows in spite of a deep betrayal, forgiveness and reconciliation with her daughter and aging. All heady subjects on their own but Thomas covers them all in This book by means of very short chapters... Some only a paragraph long. This is an interesting method of writing in that no matter how serious or devastating the topic, one cannot dwell on it. Is this the author's intent? The book only took a few hours to read and though Thomas is a creative and interesting person, these qualities don't shield her from the fears that we all have as we age, face illness and loss of loved ones. Upon finishing the book, I was left with pretty much the same feeling I had after reading "A Three Dog Life". Interesting and disappointing
Profile Image for Susan.
99 reviews40 followers
September 14, 2019
Sometimes the right book appears, unbidden, at the right time. (Thank you, Stephen King, and your grand blurb for pointing me in the right direction.) Having recently experienced a loss that I can't begin to unravel, the subjects of this memoir (death, friendship, betrayal, illness) spoke to me. But what I cherish about this memoir in vignettes, aside from the simple and direct prose, is the way the minutiae of daily life (a tree vying to grow between cracks, a snail, a savory stew, Legos, Googling old boyfriends) speak to or inform the larger tensions. For it is in these minutiae that we discover the "how to like it" part. The routine meeting of friends for dinner, the comfort of dogs in bed, the memory of privet bushes. These are what sustain you, as you make Death your friend.
Profile Image for Molly.
37 reviews
January 16, 2016
I love Abigail Thomas's memoirs, and I love this one no less. She writes with such ease and grace about the hard topics--cancer, alcoholism, mortality--interspersed with references to Buffy and Supernatural in a way that makes me feel as if we're just chatting on the phone. It's nice; it's heartbreaking; it's just what one expects when picking up an Abigail Thomas book and turning to the first page. Can't recommend more highly.
Profile Image for Barb.
383 reviews
March 2, 2015
I love memoirs. Abigail Thomas has stolen my heart with her honesty, wit and vulnerability as she writes short vignettes about what all of us experience as we age. At times, I was comforted by her ability to name and describe feelings and thoughts that I thought were mine alone. I will tell all my friends of a certain age about this wise and very human book that will be available in March.
42 reviews4 followers
October 6, 2014
This is a wonderful memoir and meditation on aging. Thomas is very blunt about her personal foibles. She writes in short, choppy sentences and yet there is a lovely rhythmic flow to her writing. She is also very funny and reading her book is like spending a great afternoon with a dear friend.
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138 reviews68 followers
May 28, 2020
Ooo, I just loved this! The perfect blend of everything I love... memoir, writing tips, painting, lyrical language, humor. It was just so, so good. A yummy treat that inspires the beauty of everyday life.
Profile Image for Fab2k.
409 reviews
April 2, 2022
Meh. It’s OK. This Abigail Thomas book isn’t really a story- it’s more just a bunch of musings. Some pages are quite short, maybe 5 sentences.
Some of her thoughts are funny, but this book just didn’t hold my interest.
Profile Image for Cindy.
Author 1 book26 followers
February 21, 2016
I loved everything about this book-- from its quirky layout to its breathtaking prose.
Here's an excerpt.
"Yesterday, May first, there was too much green and pink and yellow. There was no escaping the loveliness, the delicacy. Beauty assaulted me on every front-- forsythia, like a breaking wave, no, a tsunami of yellow; the old magnolia exploding into pink and white, like grenades; blue sky-- there was no escape from all this beauty. I was being force-fed a spring morning, even the oxygen was divine, so finally I went inside and watched The Exorcist."
Profile Image for Rona Maynard.
Author 3 books6 followers
July 16, 2022
This is one of those talismanic books I urge friends to read but never lend because there's no telling when I might feel a sudden urge to dip back in and underline some fresh discovery. A flâneur of story, Abigail Thomas pulls me forward by letting me guess where we're going together, then leaving me awestruck and grateful for the journey. In finely tuned chapters as short as a paragraph, she breaks open all the great conundrums about growing old and older: the end of youthful sex appeal, the fragility of the body (her own, her daughter's, a friend's), the ebb and flow of relationships over time. She has a genius for finding connections between seemingly disparate things (a painting that's giving her trouble, a profound friendship riven by betrayal) as she applies her heart, her humor and her fearless embrace of perplexity to the great challenge of old age: how to stay vibrant in the face of loss. She resists all the usual platitudes (her take on forgiveness: "What is forgiveness anyway? It seems to me the only person you can forgive is yourself.") Telling it slant in Dickinsonian fashion, she doesn't mention the magnificent Stephen Dobyns poem that inspired her title. I now think of that poem as a parting gift from this elegant, heart-expanding book.
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1,144 reviews2,511 followers
December 11, 2015
Memoirs are tough. Too often they seem like a vehicle for self-promotion and bragging, which can backfire and make the author unlikable. Not so with Abigail Thomas. She gives only a brief mention of her career and many accomplishments, and instead, takes a different path in writing this memoir.

The book is arranged as a series of chapters (essays) on varying topics. At the core is her decades-long platonic friendship with Chuck and a betrayal that threatened their bond, the life-threatening illness of a daughter, and her life after her husband’s death (written about in more detail in Three Dog Life, a book I also loved). But mostly she writes about her wry observations and thoughts as she goes about her everyday life: about aging, memory, her love for her dogs, death, friendship, forgiveness, failures as a parent…and much more. It’s beautifully written, refreshingly honest, and most likely will appeal to a reader of a certain age.
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