Superior Reads


It’s rare that an author invites us to enter the sacristy of her mind as unapologetically as Abigail Thomas. After two short story collections, one novel, and four works of nonfiction, including the memoirs Safekeeping: A Three Dog life; What Comes Next and How to Like It; and Thinking About Memoir, Thomas has primed us to embrace her unconventional, quirky, and irreverent lifestyle.

Thomas’s newest memoir, Still Life at Eighty; The Next Interesting Thing, is a fresh take on what it means to age in a society that embraces youth. For Abigail Thomas, eighty is letting go – not of life, but of all the expectations with which life burdens us. Throwing out her makeup, taking a nap in the middle of the day, and not feeling guilty about something or everything, Thomas has eighty down. Even during a pandemic. Even at her annual check up when her doctor asks her to count backward by sevens. Even when her beloved dog dies. And despite youthfulness that smacks her in the face – she’s relieved, she writes, when she sees a young woman on the street with her whole life in front of her – relieved because her first thought is thank God that isn’t me.

Thomas muses about small things. The pandemic has forced her indoors, away from people. She focuses on a one-winged wasp, the squirrels burying the carrots she threw out for them yesterday, she learns how to spatchcock a chicken and spatchcocks chicken three days in a row, never eating the chicken, but delights to learn the root of the term from her American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, where she also learns the root for death – she thinks it means to flow – but then she realizes she is looking at the wrong reference, dead is dead, she says.

On her eightieth birthday, Thomas gets a tattoo. For her sixtieth birthday, she had a salamander tattooed on her right arm, so this one will go on her left, just the initials FTS, because the salamander hurt too much. Because we’re on the radio, I’ll leave the interpretation up to your imagination. Just know, that it’s trademark Abigail Thomas – irreverent, outrageous, unexpected.  So not eighty.

This is a collection of flash memoir – some chapters are a mere paragraph, others three pages long; the threads of a life all woven together with Thomas’s wit and wisdom. You won’t find the secret of life buried here among the sentences and paragraphs, what you will find, however, will be transparency and authenticity – you’ll find a woman who has come to terms with being referred to as elderly  … because, frankly, Abigail Thomas’s eighty is nothing you’ve experienced before.

This is Lin Salisbury with Superior Reviews. Listen to my author interviews on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7:00 pm on Superior Reads on WTIP, 90.7 Grand Marais, or on the web at

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