The Book

About The Journal Keeper

January 14, 2010

Essayist Phyllis Theroux has long captivated readers with her pitch-perfect rendering of the inner lives of American women.  Now she has written The Journal Keeper ,  a memoir of six years in her anything but uneventful life.  

Theroux is a natural story teller.  She slips her arm companionably into yours, like an old friend going for a stroll. But  her stride is long, her eye sharp, and she swings easily between subjects that occupy most  people who are mid-way through their lives: love, loneliness,  children, growing old, financial worries, spiritual growth, and  – in Theroux’s case – watching her remarkable mother prepare for death.

Thirty years ago, Theroux began to keep a journal when she was in the middle of a painful divorce and in deep distress.  Over time, it   evolved into something quite different – a kind of daily “light box” that she uses to  illuminate her path.   But  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.


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  

What a wonderful, wonderful book!  I felt like I was on a little journey.  It really made me think beyond the page.    The Journal Keeper reads like a case study of a person’s life.  You will read it more than once.  

– Amy Sedaris, author of the New York Times best-selling I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence  

If I were in one of Phyllis Theroux’s writing classes, she surely would disapprove of my using seven enthusiastic adjectives all in a row. But no fewer could do justice to The Journal Keeper, her open-hearted, honest, honorable, wise, generous, brave and utterly captivating book which sheds a clarifying light on the pain and possibilities present in the third-third of our lives.  Read it.  You’ll love it, and her, and your own newly promising future.  

– Judith Viorst, best-selling author of Necessary Losses and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day    

The Journal Keeper mesmerized me!  There’s the double narrative of the writing life and the life going on around Theroux that is utterly absorbing.  I read it straight through in twenty-four hours and could not put it down.  

– Naomi Shihab Nye, prize-winning poet and author of You & Yours 

We read writers’ journals with the gimlet eye of voyeurs.  Here, for new fans and long-time admirers of Phyllis Theroux’s elegant essays and books, a sampling of mid-life adventures that are both individual and universal.  I found myself marking the margins with Theroux’s bracing prescriptions for writer’s doldrums.  Theroux’s uncommon mother—a captivating psychic whose quirts capture the imagination—and her wary discovery of mid-life love leap from the pages.  

– Marie Brenner, best-selling author of Apples and Oranges

The Journal Keeper is a radiant display of Theroux’s considerable talents with pen and paper but even more remarkable is her window on a mystical world of universal wisdom that she unveils in her daily task of record keeping.  

– Barbara Meade, Politics & Prose

I can well see how you would be proud to be involved in the publishing of this book! And I have indeed fallen in love, or great interest, at least, with her while I read her book. It is rare for me to be so reluctant to finish a book…It is not just that I want it to continue. I do, but this time I want to keep my connection with author Phyllis and her life. I am also a woman of a certain age, even older, and her memoir fulfills and enriches me, makes me glad to be able to know her on this level. Her bibliography and frequent quotations from Emerson, Mary Oliver, John Muir and more give me ways to continue following her trains of thought down unexpected and rewarding trails. What a delight The Journal Keeper is!  Thank you!  

– Janet Boreta, Orinda Books

I am a lover of the novel, but there is nothing for me as pleasing as a well-written, thoughtful, and intimate journal. I find them much more satisfying than a biography and The Journal Keeper is one of the best. I feel as if Phyllis Theroux is a dear friend and I am grateful to her for sharing her life with us.  

– Penny McConnel, The Norwich Bookstore   

Deep thoughts surrounded by stylish writing…

– Kirkus

Phyllis Theroux’s captivating new work, The Journal Keeper, is a multi-dimensional pleasure… whatever her subject—growing old, spiritual growth, life in a small town, her students and teaching life, even a new romantic passion (at 64!  Break out the old Beatles record!) — Theroux is able to reach deep inside and step outside herself with inspiring aplomb.

– BookPage (read full review)

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