I want to grow old the way Abigail Thomas is growing old — with grace and wit, humor and honesty, dogs and dear friends.

Her new memoir, "What Comes Next and How to Like It," is plain-spoken and wise. Her chapters are brief (some just a paragraph, none longer than three pages), but they feel complete and full. She says what she means and no more. (But she says it beautifully.)

Thomas is in her 70s now, and she writes with generosity and sense about her best friend's betrayal, her husband's tragic accident (the focus of her 2007 memoir, "A Three Dog Life"), her daughter's cancer, her old dogs dying and new dogs joining the pack.

She smokes too much and can't quit; she drinks too much (and does quit). She naps too much, depression and fatigue pulling her under. She is growing forgetful and tired. She makes brisk rules for herself: "Get dressed immediately, that's key … do not get into bed 'for a minute' even though the dogs are looking at you hopefully. Remember, you are not a dog."

Death stalks this book, but it is not a depressing read; Thomas wants to understand death, come to terms with its inevitability. "I want to make Death a member of my family. I don't want it to arrive as a stranger."

And there is still plenty of joy, which punctuates the pages like occasional sunbeams: deer in her yard, eating plums; beloved dog Rosie lying "like a warm living shawl" on a cushion behind Thomas' back; memories of young love, as vivid and discombobulating as they were 60 years ago.

"I don't feel like an old lady," she writes, "unless this is how an old lady feels."

Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter @StribBooks.