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What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
You can’t judge a book by its title, of course, but the name of Abigail Thomas’ new memoir -- What Comes Next and How to Like It -- tells a prospective reader everything she wants to know about what’s inside it. This is going to be a book about growing old, about change, and about learning to live with stuff you never thought you’d even meet. Written in short chapters, it is a memoir-in-bits, a true-to-life, messy, sometimes infuriatingly discreet (I want to know more, more!, about her lifelong platonic relationship with the guy who was also, briefly, her daughter’s lover), story of a woman living through – and past – what we politely call “middle age.”
Another woman who knows something about change, and embracing it, is Anne Lamott, author of Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Traveling Mercies, among many others. Here’s what she told us about Abigail Thomas’ work.
“Abigail Thomas is one of our wisest, most beautiful writers; a writer whose stories and memoirs I have loved for a long time. She has an equally great eye, and heart, for what is true, and for what holds meaning and hope in our lives. Couple this with a brilliant, dark sense of humor, and you will see why every writer I know waits for each new book.
Thomas has written short stories, a novel, memoirs, books for children, and a book about how to write memoir. She also leads a writing workshop at an oncology support program and the compilation of their essays is rich in love, life, death, family, the human heart and humanity. Her debut novel An Actual Life is an entirely wonderful book, full of insight, hilarious and deeply touching, tough and lovely. I savored every page. Her memoirs are razor-sharp pieces of radiant truth, not so much memoir as stained-glass windows of scenes garnered from her life. Safekeeping is an unforgettable portrait of a grown-up woman who has learned to rejoice in being herself. Reading it, we feel the crazy beauty of life. Three Dog Life is achingly sad, about her husband’s brain injury after he was hit by a car. It's about the aftermath and how all the familiar landmarks of their life were removed. Thomas’s guide to writing, called Thinking About Memoir, a book about creating stories and memoirs made me sigh, laugh, wince with recognition, and actually even want to write. It is beautiful, charming, funny, painful, and of indescribable value and inspiration to anyone who wants to write anything.
And this new book, What Comes Next and How to Like It, is as amazing as her earlier work. This may be the most honest book I’ve ever read. Dizzyingly truthful, wise, breathtaking, the writing superb, the story both harrowing and recognizable, the images and humor as sharp and surprising as ever. I promise that once you start reading, you will not be able to put this book down.”