Review: I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

9781472240750.jpgMaggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death is a love letter to life. It is a luminous, heart-wrenching, uniquely graceful and gorgeous symphony of those moments in life in which our vulnerabilities and susceptibilities come to bear. It is a testament to our perseverance against insurmountable odds, our capacity to survive, to prolong. There is an ever expanding body of literature on coming to terms with mortality, and this memoir ranks with the best. It is certainly one of the most potent.

O’Farrell frames I Am, I Am, I Am around seventeen encounters with death during her life. Some of these moments are near-escapes; many highlight the serendipity of roads not taken, of choices that might’ve been fatal; one of her most devastating evocations is her candid detailing of the difficulties her daughter faced — and will continue to face — because of a condition named anaphylaxis, and the burden this places on O’Farrell as a mother. But rather than wallowing in the inevitable hardships, O’Farrell’s piece is a testament to her daughter’s courage, and a reminder that none of us are alone, whatever our ailment or affliction. We preserve, so often by uncovering and unleashing an inner-strength we didn’t know we possessed until we reached an almost-breaking point, and  by utilising the strength of our loved ones; those who are the rocks in our lives.

I Am, I Am, I Am includes a chapter about an occasion on which O’Farrell was hospitalised, aged eight, with severe encephalitis that left her immobile and incapacitated. Doctors expected her to be permanently disabled, and there is a particular moment, when she overhears a nurse telling another patient that she is dying, that is excruciatingly hard to read. How is an eight-year-old child supposed to process this? More importantly, how is a child meant to come back from such a point, when the adults, the supreme leaders at that particular juncture of life, have given up hope? O’Farrell clearly used this memory — whether intentionally or intuitively — to shape her maternal instincts, which enabled her to better cope with her daughter’s illness. When the nurse closed the door to her room, O’Farrell was isolated, alone; forgotten. It is clear through her writing that her daughter — in fact, anybody whose life O’Farrell has touched — never will be.

I Am, I Am, I Am is a literary  milestone. Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate, it reminds us that every minute, every second, every heartbeat is a moment to savour, to appreciate, and to enjoy. Maggie O’Farrell is such a gifted writer, and this is the kind of book you could spend hours highlighting sentences and whole paragraphs of. By the time you were done, you’d likely find more highlighted sections than non-highlighted ones. I Am, I Am, I Am is provocative, moving and essential reading. For young, for old, for everyone.

ISBN: 9781472240750
Format: Paperback (216mm x 135mm x mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Tinder Press
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Publish Date: 22-Aug-2017
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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