Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas (4/5 Stars)

A Three Dog Life derives its title from the Australian aborigines who slept with their dogs for warmth; the coldest nights being "three dog nights". Abigail's husband's traumatic brain injury places her in the most difficult time of her life. The warmth and love from her three beloved dogs comfort her, hence her three dog life. This new life is one that she has to build on her own; different from any life she has lived before. Abigail navigates the unchartered waters of dealing with a husband in a nursing home, the guilt, sadness and welcomed freedom of living alone, and embarking on a new life journey with such perceptive insight that it simply took my breath away.

Thomas' writing is sparse, plain, artful and so insightful that I feel that I could read anything about her or her life so long as she wrote it. Her self-awareness and ability to describe her thoughts and feelings is nothing short of brilliant. Most amazing is how she recounts her husband's newly acquired astuteness and his uncanny ability to hone in on exactly what she is thinking or exactly what is going on in her life without any way for him to obtain actual knowledge of these things. Rich's newfound ability is an unexplainable miracle.

Reading this book changed the way that I view those suffering brain damage from a traumatic injury. I no longer see them as less than whole; they are just different - altered- sometimes these changes bring about gifts not previously possessed. Rich's random comments show a gifted ability to describe his condition and a keen sense of self-awareness. Though his short-term memory loss may cause his inability to remember where he is or what he did five minutes ago, he is able to describe how he feels by saying, "I don't know who I am. Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you have been, erasing everything. He erased your friend. You don't even remember his name."

This book is a gift to everyone who reads it. I will treasure it always and recommend it to everyone I know. Thank you to Katie for unintentionally lending it to me!

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