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A Three Dog Life

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  7,794 ratings  ·  1,235 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
Paperback, 190 pages
Published 2007 by Harcourt, Inc. (first published 2006)
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Nov 24, 2009 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
Dec 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 09, 2014 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
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
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
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
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dogs, read-2008, memoir
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
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 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
Tony Bertauski
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Khulud Khamis
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartbreaking and life-affirming at the same time

This memoir hit close home, as our family's life also changed following a severe stroke my mom suffered and which left her disabled. My dad and I were her caregivers for ten years. Five months ago, she passed away.

A heartbreaking, life-affirming memoir of a relationship between Abigail and her husband, Rich, following his severe brain injury. Abigail has to adapt to life where Rich doesn't have a past, only the present. She opens up her heart, a
Jun 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jodi Sh.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
“Suffering is the finest teacher. It teaches you details.” This excellent quote sums up what Abigail Thomas has learned in the power that is found in living a grateful life. She was faced with a truly life-altering blow and learned to appreciate what she still had vs mourning what was lost. Ms Thomas is honest with her readers. This isn’t easy. There are always those moments of tender loss that catch our hearts unaware and draw forth pangs. But for the most part, she has chosen her attitude and ...more
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Abigail and her husband Rich lived happily in Manhattan. On April 24, 2000 while Rich is out walking their dog, he is hit by a car and sustains a traumatic brain injury. His skull was shattered, his perception of time and reality forever altered. After being hospitalized, Rich is moved to a home where they had experience caring for people with traumatic brain injuries.

Abigail lives alone with her 3 dogs and visits Rich regularly but she never knows from one day to the next how she will find him.
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy reading about tragedies of the rich and annoying
This book had great potential, but turned out to be a woe-as-me tale of an over-privileged New York City hausfrau whose husband dies (he doesn't really die; he suffers a traumatic brain injury and loses his memory, but same difference for the purpose of this review.)

Anyway, there are glimpses that we'll explore that loss and how it fits into her relationships with her dogs, but instead we're stuck hearing about how she can't possibly manage to do the things her strong manly-man husband did (lik
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