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I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (2017)

by Maggie O'Farrell

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5603430,954 (4.08)72
We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death. I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O'Farrell's astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter -- for whom this book was written -- from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life's myriad dangers. Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O'Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
I can honestly say this wasn't a bad book, but it just didn't grab me after the first essay I read by Maggie O'Farrell. I think my main problem was that the book flutters around and we don't stay on a chronological timeline for the author.

"I Am, I Am, I Am, Seventeen Brushes of Death" is a memoir by Maggie O'Farrell that goes into 17 separate occasions when she almost and at one point one of her children almost died. The first story really grabbed me, "Neck" 1990. O'Farrell relates a story about a man that she came across that she realized was laying in wait to sexually assault her. The story ends with her getting away from the man, but realizing that he did indeed lie in wait for another young woman and raped and murdered her. The whole story was sobering and definitely had me thinking back to the many times I was around a man that I realized in a split second meant to do me harm.

After that, O'Farrell's memoir jumps around a lot. We go into Lungs 1988, and then spine, legs, etc., then whole body, and back to neck again. O'Farrell links every near death experience she has with her body in some way which was an interesting idea. And I have to say that the chapter headings do make it easier to figure out what period of time we are in while she is describing the story. That said, I had a hard time just finishing this due to the timelines going back and forth and being confused about who certain people were.

For example, she tells a story about her dealing with her first pregnancy that resulted in a C-Section and almost death, to her then almost drowning with a riptide took her out into the ocean, then back again to when she was a small girl and almost hit by a car. And I honestly was confused about O'Farrell's family's make-up. She talks about a couple of relationships, but then mentions her husband, and then we jump back in again to the other guy she was seeing depending on the story. I honestly needed a flow chart after a while.

And I feel bad for saying this, but some of the stories were not that interesting to me. Sometimes it read like a stretch to me in order for her to allude to some larger point (that I was obviously missing). For example, she tells about a near death experience she doesn't even remember, that her mother tells her about and then that segues into her remembering a garage that she and her sister played into, that then goes into a cat that had kittens in the garage, to the cat finally being too sick for her sister (who is a vet) to heal this time. I felt like I needed to be very alert while reading this book to just even follow everything that was happening.

I am glad I read this, but really happy I just borrowed it from the library. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Just beautiful. ( )
  amandanan | Jun 6, 2020 |
I am a big Maggie O'Farrell fan. It's hard to believe how many brushes with death one person could have. Interesting storytelling especially escaping a murderer who goes on to kill another young girl. I think we can all think of times we were saved from tragedy and be grateful for those divine mercies. Her greatest tragedy is the frail health problems of her daughter. ( )
  Jeanene_KP | Apr 6, 2020 |
wow wow wow I loved this memoir. It’s structured as vignettes about O’Farrell’s 17 brushes with death from accidents, illnesses and dangerous strangers. They’re not exaggerated incidents; the dangers are dramatic and suspenseful and death seems imminent. Yet at the same time, her voice is gentle and reflective, steady in the present time and weaving in flashbacks and flash-forwards with a mastery that could serve as a writing class. I’m in awe that none of her experiences dim her relentless adventurousness.

The knowledge that I was lucky to be alive, that it so easily could have been otherwise, skewed my thinking. … What else was I going to do with my independence, my ambulatory state, except exploit it for all it was worth? ( )
  DetailMuse | Feb 11, 2020 |
Very bleak, as you would expect given the subject matter.
I found the last chapter especially moving.
( )
  karenshann | Dec 31, 2019 |
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Epigraph
I took a deep breath and listened to the old
brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
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for my children
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On the path ahead, stepping out from behind a boulder, a man appears.
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We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death. I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O'Farrell's astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter -- for whom this book was written -- from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life's myriad dangers. Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O'Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

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