Book Review: What Comes Next and How to Like It

What Comes Next and How to Like it
By: Abigail Thomas
Published By: Scribner
Publication Date: March 24th, 2015
Page Count: 240
Source: ARC Kindly Provided By Publisher
Audience/Genre: Adult Memoir
 Buy it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound.

If you asked me what Abigail Thomas's new memoir is about, I'd be hard pressed to give you a succinct answer. It's about death and living and dogs and alcohol and love and aging and family and friendship and acceptance and painting. But above all, it's just plain GOOD. Written in short, sometimes paragraph or sentence length chapters, with page after page of highlight-able insights about life, this book is easily among my favorites for 2015.

I absolutely loved the format of this memoir. Written like a meandering conversation between friends rather than a chronological story, many chapters consist of only a few sentences. These brief almost non-stories give the sense of an incomplete thought mentioned in passing, a story you started telling but couldn't remember the ending to so the teller abandons it with an offhand, "I forgot what I was going to say." Yet every chapter connects, and connects the reader to Thomas, to build the narrative of an aging woman dealing with external and internal demons including alcoholism, cancer, loss, and solitude.

Thomas's brutally honest and honestly gorgeous writing and insights lend itself to this book's sometimes disjointed, but always connected format. And really, her writing is GORGEOUS. And it's just like those last two sentences that don't make sense, but they sort of do. ;) I found myself highlighting page after page to come back to -- either because if the incredible insights she presented or the absolutely beautiful way she turns a phrase or word into something new and exciting and different than it has ever been.

The best memoirs read as if the author is sitting next to you, telling you a story over coffee or drinks. The best memoirs have the ability to convey tone and humor and sadness and sarcasm in the subtlest of word choice or turn of phrase. The best memoirs end with a sigh and an insight to your own life. And I'm happy to say that What Comes Next and How to Like It is among the best of memoirs.

Summary via Goodreads

From the bestselling author of A Three Dog Life, which “shines with honest intelligence” (Elizabeth Gilbert): a fresh, exhilarating, superbly written memoir about aging, family, creativity, tragedy, friendship, and the richness of life.

What comes next? What comes after the devastating loss of Abigail's husband, a process both sudden and slow? What form does her lifelong platonic friendship take after a certain line is crossed? How to cope with her daughter’s diagnosed illness? Or the death of her beloved dog? Is life worth living without three cocktails before dinner? How do you paint the ocean on a sheet of glass?

And how to like it? How to accept, appreciate, enjoy? Who are our most trusted, valuable companions and what will we do for them? Instead of painting an ocean, paint a forest, turn it over, scrape the surface, and presto: there is the ocean. When you’ve given up, when you least expect it, there it is.

What Comes Next and How to Like It is an extraordinarily moving memoir about many things, but at the center is a steadfast friendship between Abigail Thomas and a man she met thirty-five years ago. Through marriages, child-raising, the vicissitudes and tragedies of life, it is this deep, rich bond that has sustained her. Readers who loved “the perfectly honed observations of a clear-eyed and witty writer” (Newsweek) in Thomas’s “spare, astonishing” (Entertainment Weekly) memoir, A Three Dog Life, will relish this beautiful examination of her life today—often solitary, but rich and engaging, with children, grandchildren, dogs, a few suitors, and her longtime best friend.


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