Monday, September 24, 2007

"Safekeeping - Some true stories from a life" - Abigail Thomas

"She would (if she could) put her arm around the girl she'd been and try to tell her, Take it easy, but the girl had no receptors for Take it easy."

Like the small skipping stones her father had kept - and that she unwrapped only years after his death - Abigail Thomas gives the reader these smooth, heavy and understated vignettes of her life.

Her tone is motherly, like a warm winter blanket as she shares what has been an incredibly full emotional life.

By 26 she had three small children and no job. She made do in a small apartment until husband number two, almost twenty years her senior, came along. The relationship was uncomfortable on both ends, but left Thomas with a forth child and a slowly blossoming friendship cut short by death.

Death is everywhere in "Safekeeping". Parents, loved ones. There is also loneliness and anxiety. Yet it is the poetry of Thomas' writing that lingers after the book is closed.

On chocolate liquor:
"It wasn't liquor. It was candy with attitude"

"They had a big window installed in the kitchen that looked into the woods. In the fall afternoons she used to watch them empty of their light like a glass of bourbon being filled to the brim."

More melancholic than "Three Dog Life", "Safekeeping" feels like one those jagged moments in life when we are forced to stop and take stock. Some much is taken away in what seems an unjust manner, and then, amazing gifts are bestowed when we least expect them. The only protection against dark times, Thomas seems to suggest, is memory. However unreliable it may be, it is our only thread of understanding, the only shot at making sense, the only wisdom we can leave behind.

"It was a party in what was to become Soho, lots of drinking, lots of smoke, and somebody said something I didn't catch, and another man replied, one hand on the back of his own head, the other holding a cigarette, both men wearing togas as I recall, "Oh honey, any sense of security is a false sense of security". Everybody laughed, but I didn't get it. What was so funny?
Now I get it."

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