Stephen King called Abigail Thomas’ memoir A Three Dog Life “the best memoir I have ever read,” and Thomas has another winner with her latest, What Comes Next and How to Like It.
The previous book focused on life after a tragic accident left Thomas’ husband brain damaged and, seven years later, dead. What Comes Next shares the aftermath as she contemplates life in her 70s.
Thomas bares her soul in a series of short chapters, some only a paragraph long. The result, while a breeze to read, paints a rich, multifaceted portrait of the author’s daily life in Woodstock, New York, with her beloved dogs. She is both forthright (“I am who I am and it has taken me a long time to get here.”) and self-deprecatingly funny (“Who sits in a dark room watching Burn Notice on a beautiful day?”).
Thomas frames her narrative with the story of how, years ago, her daughter Catherine had an affair with her best friend, literary agent Chuck Verrill, and how the repercussions affected her relationships with the pair for years afterward.
Catherine and Chuck continue to be mainstays in Thomas’ life, but also a source of continuing worry. Catherine, now happily married, undergoes treatment for breast cancer, while Chuck, divorced, suffers from serious liver disease.
When a student describes her as a “nice old lady with a tattoo,” Thomas reports that she is startled “because I think of myself as not nice, not old, not a lady.” That’s all the more reason, of course, that readers will treasure this journey with a writer who comes across as a compelling, lively friend.