Tinder Press 2017
A memoir with a difference, I AM, I AM, I AM is novelist Maggie O’Farrell’s unforgettable account of a life in near-death experiences. A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Insightful, inspirational, intelligent, it is a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.
I adore Maggie’s O’Farrell’s fiction so this book hit my radar when it was released, with me finally informing my husband that despite the numerous unread books on my shelf, this one would make a lovely Christmas present, for me! And it did. Unusually for me this book didn’t even hit my shelf – more commonly books I have to buy, those ones I must have, arrive home with me and then spend at least six months waiting on the shelf to be read – no idea what this is about but I understand it is a common trait among bookish folk!
Anyway, back to the book, despite my love for this authors work I can’t deny my scepticism, 17 brushes with death? That seems an awful lot! That said I liked the original theme of this memoir, telling one’s life story through the lens of death.
The writing is wonderful, as expected and I enjoyed reading about Maggie O’Farrell’s life, her adventures and her scrapes. It is true she has had a number of what can only be called near misses. Some more scary than others, some definitely read as very close calls and some more common, but very sad aspects of life.
Maggie O’Farrell writes tenderly about her miscarriage, and the heartbreak this caused her. Highlighting the sad frequency of this event, which somehow seems to serve to lesson the impact, the author speaks elonquently about her loss and the fact that she always remembers how old her lost child would be despite the fact that for society this baby never existed.
Several threatening instances shocked me and struck me as truly scary situations where Maggie was lucky I think. The concluding chapter Maggie writes about her daughter, who suffers with severe allergic reactions and the trauma this causes for the family in everyday life. For me as a parent this chapter was heartbreaking but this whole book, so eloquently written evoke a range of emotions as Maggie tangled with death at different times in her life.
As expected this was a highly original memoir, I was struck by a life lived well, lots of travel, adventure and love with some real challenges and anguish along the way. It is a memoir that will stay with me, I think about my own mortality and wonder about my own brushes with death, are there so many I wonder, if I were to tell my story through this lens.
A book that undoubtedly elicits an emotional response, it is afterall about death, albeit surviving, eloquently written and engaging. Interestingly written in a non chronological order and while mostly written in the first person, there were a couple of beautiful instances where the author wrote about herself in the third person, as she looks back on her life and tells the story of a younger self. Other times O’Farrell inhabits her younger self as she tells the story. The writing is stunning throughout.
A wonderful Christmas present, everything I hoped it would be, a truly magnificent memoir. Have you read this book? What did you think?
Thanks as always for taking the time to read.