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Abigail Thomas

A Three Dog Life

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The wife of a man who was institutionalized after an accident left him brain damaged describes her efforts to rebuild her life in a small country town with three dogs.

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The wife of a man who was institutionalized after an accident left him brain damaged describes her efforts to rebuild her life in a small country town with three dogs.
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.


HMH Books
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Abigail Thomas
Publication Date
September, 2007
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.00 x 5.31 x 0.67 Inches

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(4.1)out of 5 stars
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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

A Three Dog Life deriv...

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.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Engaging, sad, raw, ho...

Engaging, sad, raw, honest, and at times, even witty. I enjoyed the author's writing style. Scattered thoughts are typically what happens in reality after such a tragedy. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one in any way, you may find yourself physically nodding along at times in understanding.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Rich and full of wit, ...

Rich and full of wit, Abigail Thomas has exposed herself so openly to us possibly for two reasons: to release her burden; and in so doing she connects with our own fears and weaknesses, and provides us a guide to dealing with them. She had, of course, not intended ever to have this opportunity, but the shock factor was the edge that made a heart-stopping experience such grand fodder for this excellent writer's intelligent and capable discourse. This is a keeper.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Abigail Thomas beautif...

Abigail Thomas beautifully chronicles the process of discovery, disbelief, grief, hardship and then the realization that life must go on after a devasting accident which left her husband permanently brain damaged. Short chapters weave life before and after the devasting moment when her husband tried to save their dog and was hit by a car. Without self pity or self agrandizement, Thomas tells the story of courage and self discovery after reconciling the inexplicable fact that her husband will never recover. In a profoundly poignant, insightful manner, Thomas shares her journey to the institution where she witnesses both the shell of the vibrant person her husband once was deteriorate into a raving, hullicinating, angry and tramatized man and the small, short periods when he is lucid. When all around is out of control, Thomas finds solace in simple comforts such as three dogs, a cozy bed, soft snow, a warm fire, friends and family. I recommend this book. It isn't over the top dramatic, rather it is a beautifully written simple story of a very complicated situation.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Ill admit that for th...

I'll admit that for the first third of the book or so, I was just sort of depressed and wondered why I was reading it....but Thomas' language and the way she tells these vignettes from her life after her husband is hit by a car. Her dogs are a great comfort to her, and she learns to adapt her life to what her husband has become. While my gut reaction was "this is depressing", by the end, her ability to cope with what has happened feels natural - not forced and overly happy, but real. Quite a good read, even for people not going through something like that themselves.

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