A man leaves his home one dark Manhattan night with a beagle on a leash, and then his life lodges in a single moment that never tips into the next. Abigail Thomas (Safekeeping, Getting Over Tom) writes with aching directness of being plunged into constant, quietly harrowing grief after her husband is brain-damaged in A Three Dog Life. When the doorman calls to say their beagle was found alone in the building elevator, Thomas discovers her husband Rich lying in the street in a pool of blood, hit by a car after chasing their runaway dog. This is the one thing that stays the same: my husband got hurt, she writes. Everything else changes. Those changes are catastrophic yet tragically common to anyone who has experienced health or aging issues: Rich moves into a nursing home when his brain-damaged psychosis, confusion and rages become too intense for Thomas to handle alone.
She leaves their New York apartment and buys a country house to make her weekly visits to him easier, then realizes she's terrified of being alone and rusty when it comes to taking care of herself. She adopts a couple of other dogs and creates a safe space under the covers where the quartet nap during the day and snuggle at night. She eats strawberry shortcake with her daughter for two weeks straight, travels to Mexico, becomes obsessed with outsider art, and befriends a young mother begging for spare change in her village. Thomas explores how she will go on with a bit of survivor's guilt in parallel lives: one as a contented widow of sorts, and another as a loving wife who will spend hours attending to the husband she has lost forever.