I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death
Maggie O’ Farrell
Narrator: Daisy Donovan
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.
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Published: August 2nd 2017
Mention of Rape/Kidnapping/Murder, Miscarriage, Blood Depiction, Mention of Severe Illnesses, Drowning, Difficult Birthing
“When you’re a child, no one tells you that you are going to die. You have to work it out for yourself.”
I’m starting off the new year with not only an audiobook, but with my first memoir! And…. it wasn’t my favorite?? It wasn’t bad (not at all) and if I’m honest, I actually recommend it. However, I’ll list my issues deeper in this review, just know, I didn’t dislike this one.
I’m actually surprised that the author didn’t narrate the book? Nonetheless, I don’t have any strong opinion on said narration. I enjoyed her voice, you can hear the emotion in her voice and overall she did well.
Now, I will admit that I have had this book in my Audible library for over a year (at least long enough to where I can’t return it) and the title is what truly encouraged me to purchase it. After listening, I can admit that maybe I should have done some research on the author herself? Because I had no idea who she was… which may have affected my listening a bit?
But! That was on me, so we’ll take that out of the equation when deciding my rating. The only word I can use to describe this was appreciation. It’s a compilation of O’ Farrell’s brushes with death throughout her life, each chapter titled with a part of the body and we get to see how each have affected/molded her into the person she is today– out of them all, some hit more than others, but getting into her psyche was intriguing more than not.
“I swam in dangerous waters, both metaphorically and literally.
It was not so much that I didn’t value my existence but more that I had an insatiable desire to push myself to embrace all that it could offer.”
Because though many of these aren’t exactly brushes per say– risk taking or many many what if scenarios that played in her mind, yet the deeper you get into her narration, the come to find out that the authors infatuation with mortality comes from trying to escape how exposed and vulnerable she was as a child– especially as she had encephalitis and was told her death was imminent.
We see her talk about how she dealt with abuse she suffered in school, the trauma and misogyny she face during hospital visited, her miscarriages and the complicated feelings that swirled in her with the loss her each child. There’s no holding back in her tellings: it’s raw, it get uncomfortable. We see her struggles and sympathize, if not empathize.
“I have this compulsion for freedom, for a state of liberation. It is an urge so strong, so all-encompassing that it overwhelms everything else. I cannot stand my life as it is. I cannot stand to be here, in this town, in this school. I have to get away. I have to work and work so that I can leave and only then can I create a life that will be liveable for me.”
Before I get into my cons, I do want to mention this quote, one that so viscerally latched onto me, one that I had related to extremely… it just moved me in a way… I had to mention it.
Yet, after a while the stories started to feel long winded. This is a five hour book– it was a little too easy for me to zone out, zone back in and realize that I hadn’t missed much of anything. Honestly, she started off with her best story: it was chilling, it drew me in, made my heart race, made me introspective. And I realize not every near death experience will be as dramatic as the first, that we’re to delve deep into the philosophical aspect of why these stood out the most to her enough to shape her… but, in a way it started to feel repetitive.
I feel if I hadn’t binged this one, if I had gave each story time to sit with me, I would have enjoyed it more. Yet, I have no regrets listening to this book– if anything it gave me much to think about.