It isn't very often that you come across a short memoir that has more impact than the last few books you've read combined. That would be how I'd describe my initial thoughts on reading this book way back when I first read it, however many years ago that was. Naturally, I selected it because of the dogs in the title, but this isn't a book built for animal lovers only- it's more written for human beings, especially those who have had a loved one lose memories and/or their grasp on reality.
This memoir isn't told in the traditional sequential manner of most books, but I never found myself lost or bored with the current segment of reading, nor did I find it choppy, despite it having a series of stories within the overall story. Much of the chapters have a subject the author sticks to, and her observations are often spot-on for the subject. In particular, her chapter on Guilt struck home with me- who in the world doesn't feel guilty for one reason or another at sometime in their life, and then has difficulty letting go of it?
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'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 change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude. It is also about her relationship with Rich, a man who lives in the eternal present, and the eerie poetry of his often uncanny perceptions. This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail discovered in the five years since the accident: You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.'
I'm unsure if I read this prior to my grandpa's fall, but I greatly related to Abigail's observations of her husband in that respect. My grandpa fell in his bathroom roughly a year prior to his passing, during the time my mom and I lived with my grandparents. He was sent to a rehabilitation center since his balance was wavery at best, but he never improved enough to come home until it was clear he was on his way up (heaven-bound). Half the time he was sharp as a tack, but the other half he grew confused about where he was. In Abigail's case, her husband seemed to have much fewer moments of clarity due to the severity of his injuries.
The three dogs you meet in the book: Harry, Rosie, and Carolina, are Abigail's main support system in this memoir. Having a now a crowd (three) of animals, I can relate to depending on their presence and the sense of regularity that comes with owning pets. Abigail never really feels alone despite actually living by herself, something that helped her endure her separation from her husband.
The quote that sums the book up:
Simple tasks were uphill sledding.
~A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas, page 113
A Three Dog Life takes you through the everyday struggles and sentiments of a woman struggling to live with a husband whose memories are often robbed from him- but it covers much more ground than that. Part memoir, part self-help (in the oddest way), and part storytelling, the author takes you through her husband's ordeal and the way she dealt with it's aftermath. I recommend this to anyone interested in stories of memory loss as seen from the caretaker's perspective, as well as people who enjoy well thought out memoirs.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent book that lingers with you long after you've put it down.
Content: Ages 16+ simply for interest reasons. Really not much objectionable content to speak of, other than a slightly graphic description of her husband's accident.
Page Count: 182 pages in my paperback edition