WHAT COMES NEXT AND HOW TO LIKE IT

Abigail Thomas

The New York Times bestseller from the beloved author of A Three Dog Life—an exhilarating, superbly written memoir on friendship, family, creativity, tragedy, and the richness of life.

Thomas was startled to overhear herself described as “a nice old lady with a tattoo,” because she thinks of herself as not nice, not old, nor a lady. But she has wondered: what comes next? What comes after the death of a spouse? What form does a lifelong friendship take after deepest betrayal? How does a mother cope with her child’s dire illness?

more …

The New York Times bestseller from the beloved author of A Three Dog Life—an exhilarating, superbly written memoir on friendship, family, creativity, tragedy, and the richness of life.

Thomas was startled to overhear herself described as “a nice old lady with a tattoo,” because she thinks of herself as not nice, not old, nor a lady. But she has wondered: what comes next? What comes after the death of a spouse? What form does a lifelong friendship take after deepest betrayal? How does a mother cope with her child’s dire illness? Or the death of a cherished dog?

And how to like it? How to accept, appreciate, enjoy? How to find solace and pleasure? How to sustain and be sustained by our most trusted, valuable companions? At its heart, What Comes Next and How to Like It is about the complicated friendship between Thomas and a man she met thirty-five years ago—a rich bond that has lasted through marriages, child-raising, and the vicissitudes and tragedies of life. “After all,” she writes, “there are those people we love, and then there are those we recognize. These are the unbreakable connections.”

Exquisitely observed, lush with sentences you will read over and over again, What Comes Next and How to Like It “is a beautifully felt, deeply moving memoir, the best work yet by a woman who has already done some of the best work in the field. Abigail Thomas is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists, and so much of this book’s wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces. It may only take you two days to read, but the impact will stay with you for a long, long time” (Stephen King). This is a glorious guide to living imperfectly and exuberantly.

less …
  • Scribner
  • Paperback
  • April 2016
  • 240 Pages
  • 9781476785066

Buy the Book

$15.00

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Abigail Thomas

Abigail ThomasAbigail Thomas, the daughter of renowned science writer Lewis Thomas (The Lives of a Cell), is the mother of four children and the grandmother of twelve. She is the author of six previous books, including the memoir A Three Dog Life, which was named one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post. She teaches writing and lives in Woodstock.

Praise

What Comes Next and How to Like It is a beautifully felt, deeply moving memoir, the best work yet by a woman who has already done some of the best work in the field. It’s about friendship, and the shocks friendship can endure when it’s true and deep. It’s about the rueful pleasures (not to mention the jarring pitfalls) of getting old. It’s about enduring tragedy, sickness, and loss. Thomas speaks of these big things by scattering the ordinary jewelry of everyday life: loving dogs (even when they chew your most precious possessions), Googling old boyfriends, rescuing an orphan mouse, and trees that try to grow in the crack between boards. Small speaks for large here, in a calm voice that talks to the mind while it fills the heart. Abigail Thomas is the Emily Dickinson of memoirists, and so much of this book’s wisdom is between the lines and in the white spaces. It may only take you two days to read, but the impact will stay with you for a long, long time. Abigail Thomas fills memory with living breath.“—Stephen King

“This may be the most honest book I’ve ever read, by one of the most beautiful writers I know– dizzyingly truthful, often funny, lyrical, wise.“—Anne Lamott

“I would follow Abigail Thomas on any journey she ever takes. The arrival of a new book from this master is always a cause for celebration, because I know right away that I’m about to learn something important about the art of writing and the art of living, both. I come to her books as though to a feast, and leave fulfilled and transformed.“—Elizabeth Gilbert

Discussion Questions

1. Elizabeth Gilbert said of Abigail’s memoirs, “I come to her books as though to a feast, and leave fulfilled and transformed.” Did you feel transformed after reading What Comes Next and How to Like It? If so, in what ways?

2. This memoir is organized into four parts and many short “chapters.” Discuss the book’s structure. What purpose do you think it serves?

3. The second chapter, “Write a Book,” focuses on a discussion Abigail and Chuck have in which Chuck asks Abigail to write their story. How does this conversation affect Abigail’s telling of that story?

4. Abigail often finds herself painting, particularly landscape scenes on sheets of glass. How does she approach painting and writing differently? What does painting offer her that writing doesn’t?

5. Abigail’s feelings about Chuck and Catherine’s relationship change over the course of the book. How did their affair alter Abigail’s bonds with each of them?

6. Discuss Abigail’s relationships with the men in her life—her husband, her son, and Chuck. How do these relationships differ from her relationships with women—in particular, her three daughters?

7. It is no secret to readers of Abigail Thomas’s work that her dogs are important to her. Discuss her connection to her dogs; in what ways is it similar to the relationships she has with her human companions, and in what ways is it different?

8. Part III, “The Wilderness of Not Knowing,” focuses on Catherine’s battle with cancer. What does the experience teach Abigail? How does it change her?

9. At times, Abigail worries she is an alcoholic; other times, she enjoys three Manhattans before dinner without concern. Discuss Abigail’s relationship with alcohol and how it affects her moods, decisions, and perspectives.

10. In Part II, “I Don’t Get to Live Forever,” Abigail ponders the meaning of death and struggles to accept it as the inevitability it is. Consider the following passages and discuss their relevance to Abigail’s experience:

A) “This is uncomfortably real. I’m just poking at death with a long stick to see what happens.” (p. 102)

B) “This body of mine, the one in pink pajamas, the one hanging on to her pillow for dear life, these pleasant accommodations in which I have made my home for seventy years, it’s going to die. It will die, and the rest of me, homeless, will disappear into thin air.” (p. 114)

C) “I want to make Death a member of my family. I don’t want it to arrive as a stranger.” (p. 120)

11. Reread the final chapter, “Love.” What do you think Abigail means by her poignant last words? How do you interpret what she is trying to say about relationships, or about love in general?

12. Different moments in the book strike very different notes—of sadness and despair, joy and relief, love and fear. Ultimately, how would you describe What Comes Next and How to Like It? What feeling did the memoir leave you with?