I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death by Maggie O’Farrell, Irish Novelist, is the best sort of memoir- one that encourages the reader to pause and review their own life experiences. That said, it is also a fast-paced journey through a young woman’s life experiences that left me a bit breathless (and quite glad that my daughter was not so adventurous in her early years!) The book rolls along with the concept that we are shaped by what does not happen as often as what does.
O’Farrell shares each story by offering first the part of the body involved (headers include LUNGS, NECK, BLOODSTREAM) and a quirky historic anatomical drawing of that body part. She shares tales ranging from being caught in a dangerous riptide to encountering a disturbed individual on a trail that later murders another young woman. Some tales are short, some a few pages longer. The format of this book encourages the reader to stay for “just one more story”.
There are a few downsides to mention besides potential sleep deprivation. I found the footnotes that the author includes to be more distraction than needed information. I also agree with folks that criticized her use of the term “near death” to describe the situations in this book. If the definition of “near death” is clinically dying and being brought back to life, then most of the situations in the book qualify as “near misses” rather than “near death”.
The last pages of the book find O’Farrell trying to protect her daughter from a dangerous skin condition. Her love and worry are palpable and that realization that her children will have their own near misses, twists of fate, perhaps even near-death experiences brings a satisfying sense of the continuation of life to O’Farrell’s memoir. The take-away? Things can happen in a moment that impact a lifetime.
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Featured in September 2018 newsletter