The Journal Keeper: Book summary and reviews of The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux

The Journal Keeper

A Memoir

By Phyllis Theroux

The Journal Keeper
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2010,
    305 pages.

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Book Summary

Essayist Phyllis Theroux has long captivated readers with her pitch-perfect rendering of the inner lives of American women. The Journal Keeper is a memoir of six years in her life.

A natural storyteller, Theroux slips her arm companionably into yours, like an old friend going for a stroll. But Theroux’s stride is long, her eye sharp, and she swings easily between subjects that occupy us all: love, loneliness, growing old, financial worries, spiritual growth, and watching her remarkable mother prepare for death.

Theroux began to keep a journal when she was in distress. It saved her life by helping her to see circumstances more clearly. With nuggets of wisdom, The Journal Keeper is a rich feast from a writing life—with a surprising romantic twist. But it was not until Theroux sat down to edit her journals for publication did she realize, in her words, “that a hand much larger and more knowing than my own was guiding my life and pen across the page.” She makes a good case for this being true for us all.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A journal that may grace enough night tables to assuage the author's avowed concerns about her bank balance." - Kirkus Reviews

"I loved this singularly honest and graceful book. The Journal Keeper reminds us that there is no such thing as an ordinary moment, and certainly no such thing as an ordinary life." - Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love

"In lovely, straightforward prose, Theroux speaks honestly about the quotidian and miraculous aspects of loss and new chances. It’s all here—births, deaths, and marriages—and the reader is invited into the intimacies of a world that is both familiar and full of surprises." - Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge

"Open-hearted, honest, honorable, brave, and utterly captivating. Read it— you’ll love it, and her, and your own newly promising future." - Judith Viorst, best-selling author of Necessary Losses

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Nancy E. (Whitehouse Station, NJ)
The Journal Keeper
This book should inspire many readers to keep a journal. At first the book is difficult to get into but as you begin to "know" the author it is difficult to put down. I read it in two evenings and found it very enjoyable. Ms. Theroux is revealing about her life, her relationships and her view of the world. This is a book that many women - especially at midlife - will understand and empathize with the author.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Nancy C. (Overland Park,
The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux
This is a book with a definite appeal, especially for someone close to Ms. Theroux’s age. However, it will be of interest to anyone who keeps a journal, would like to keep a journal, or is just interested in the musings of another person. My only quarrel with this book is that it may be a little too long. By the end it was beginning to be irritating; there was too much carping about the details of her relationship with Ragan. Perhaps, everyone begins to carp at that age. The writing was excellent and it was interesting to learn about Ms Theroux’s relationship with her mother. This was an exceptionally close relationship and was really heartwarming.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Dotty G. (Roswell, GA)
a keeper...
My shelves are overflowing with books, so much so that I can't keep them all; however, I will keep and treasure this book. The Journal Keeper is a thought provoking, sometimes depressing, sometimes uplifting read. I have highlighted many passages, and each time I pick it up, I find more to highlight. The everyday events of the author's life are intertwined with her writing life. Her themes are universal and honest. I learned from and often identified with this extraordinary memoir.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sue Ellen Savereide (Cedar Falls, IA)
Did Not Disappoint
As a "sixty-something" who often finds herself reading memoir (May Sarton, Anne Morrow Lindbergh) I had rather high expectations for this book. I was not disappointed. The book in fact inspired and nudged me to once again take up the practice of journaling. The book begins as the author is in her sixty-first year. At this stage of her life, she yearns to "prune my life so that the strength flows into fewer branches." She honestly chronicles challenges—emotional, financial, physical, mental—and coping mechanisms. Certainly writing—i.e., journal keeping—is one of those mechanisms. In the section " If You Want to Keep a Journal," she advises that a journal "should be a wise friend who helps you create your own enlightenment." Let the writing and the pruning begin!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Deborah P. (Dunnellon, FL)
The Journal Keeper
Theroux shares a brief insight into her life as a writer in the first ten pages. She then graciously allows the reader to enter her interior thoughts, questions and experiences in the form of short journal entries from 2000 to 2005. Although the book has no identifiable plot it reads like a well written novel. The author's use of metaphors and analogies made this reader want to stop and reflect on her questions, insights and wisdom. So happy to be a member of BookBrowse because I might have missed one of the best books of 2010.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Karen J. (Bremerton, WA)
Uneven
Captures six years of the author's life. A sketchbook of events, impressions, favorite quotes, observations…. I found my attention wandering in parts but deeply engaged in others. It was a bit uneven for me. Interesting, thought provoking at times, but not as good as some other memoirs I've read.

...9 more reader reviews

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More Information

Phyllis Theroux's books include a memoir; several essay collections; a novella, Giovanni's Light; and an anthology, The Book of Eulogies. She lives in Ashland, Virginia. Visit her at her website, The Writer's Well: A Place for Inspiration (which includes a 5 minute video about The Journal Keeper - which aptly portrays the nature of the book but also includes many 'plot spoilers'). Read an excerpt here.

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