Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book Review: I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O'Farrell (audio)

I love a good memoir on audio, and if it has to do with medical issues, even better! So when this one came along, I know I'd read it sooner rather than later, and then when I saw it was also pretty short, it rocketed to the top of my list.

Maggie has structured this memoir around moments in her life when she almost died. Some of them terrible accidents resulting in a trip to the hospital. Others a near miss, like when the creepy guy who harassed her on a hike killed someone on that same trail a few days later, or when a brain misfunction caused her to nearly drown in front of her friends. A couple of them she was even too young to remember.

It makes a reader wonder about her own life--have I had 17 near-misses? That seems like an exceptionally high number. I remember going off the high dive at the pool and landing on my back, getting the breath knocked out of my and feeling paralyzed as I sank toward the bottom of the pool (18 feet), watching the daylight get dimmer and dimmer. But then that temporary paralysis wore off and I swam to the top without anyone noticing anything had happened. (I never went off the high dive again.) So that's one.  But 17? Now, one reason Maggie has had so many was a terrible childhood illness that at first they thought she wouldn't survive, and when she did, she had to relearn how to walk and she never regained her body's spacial knowledge, and to this day she can't do two things at once. Walking and chewing gum is a literal impossibility for her. And then in her twenties, that created an impetus to travel broadly and singly, in a death-defying manner, in countries that were dangerous, and to go solo in places where it wasn't smart. Now granted, I think we all did some pretty stupid things in that decade, and most of us just would never know if that creepy guy on the subway went on to be a murderer, or how close we came to being a victim on any given night, stumbling home very late and rather drunk. Perhaps much closer than we realize. And Ms. O'Farrell's book makes us look at our own lives and reevaluate our memories through a much more precarious and dangerous lens.

I listened to this book on Libby via my public library.

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