Title: I Am, I Am, I Am
Writer: Maggie O’Farrell
Publishing House: Tinder Press
Date of Publication: August 22nd 2017
Rating: 5 stars
‘’There is nothing unique or special in a near-death experience. They are not rare; everyone, I would venture, has had them, at one time or another, perhaps without even realizing it.’’
How difficult it is to write a text about a memoir…No matter if you liked it or not, no matter whether you shared the writer’s views or not, a memoir is a testament of someone’s heart and soul and how can anyone dissect it so light-heartedly? This memoir by Maggie O’Farrell is one of the most poignant, powerful, altering reads we will ever experience. Therefore, if this review looks to you a bit all over the place, I apologize because I never succeed in explaining my feelings adequately. Once you read this book, I don’t think you will ever view life through the same lens as before.
‘’I’m trying to write a life, told only through near-death experiences.’’
17 times when Death’s shadow came too close to her and her children. 17 times when she fought with all her might and succeeded in defeating the enemy who was in a hurry to claim one more soul much too early. She lets us into her life by revealing her most vulnerable moments. Hidden in these memories are shocking details about dangers that came out of nowhere, thoughts on how love started, a boyfriend who was an egoist to the core, a horrible doctor who served a misogynistic, Victorian view of ‘’helping’’ women with their labour, her saviours, the people who made sure she would return, her beautiful family. There are so many aspects of O’Farrell that I admire and marvelled at. She is such a free spirit, her wanderlust comes alive through the pages as she narrates her experiences in diverse places. China, Chile, France, Italy, Wales and her native Northern Ireland. Her affinity to the sea and hiking, her aversion to tea, which I share completely. I was particularly touched by the birth of her first child because I was a star-gazer baby myself that put my mum in extreme danger during labour. There is also a beautiful reference to Karen Blixen’s Seven Gothic Tales.
O’Farrell’s writing strikes your feelings, your heart. I always feel uncomfortable with hospitals, I’ve been to one only once- thank God and all the Heavens- and even reading about them makes me feel terrible. Therefore, the experience of her illness as a child was terrifying to read as was the behaviour of her classmates. This verified, once again, my conviction that children are often the most heartless creatures in the universe. She describes the era when the HIV nightmare began vividly and full of compassion. In many cases, it is evident that women face extensive dangers because of our sex. As I often say, it is the absolute loss of any trace of equality. As long as we are unable to feel secure beyond any doubt while we’re walking in the street, equality is non-existent. It is an empty word written in such charades as ‘’so-called’’ legislations just so the governments have the opportunity to feel politically correct. It is a utopia, a wish that will never become a fulfilled reality…
The impact of the language she uses is such that even though I knew she survived, in every incident my heart was pounding in agony. Then, you start thinking ‘’what if?’’ What if things have turned out differently? What if this happened to me? What would I do? It definitely makes you think about living and making every moment count, as morbid or detrimental as it may sound. How fragile and, at the same time, how strong our bodies are. Her thoughts on miscarriage should be read by every woman.
This is a book you will live in. Your feelings, your thoughts, your entire self will experience it. I know it changed me, even a small portion of me. I know that I need not complain about mild headaches, seasonal flu or the common cold. The strength she shows in coping with her daughter’s challenges -as it happens with every mother who faces similar situations- is a source of endurance and strength for all of us. I don’t think that a reader can finish this book and remain untouched. The realisation of our own mortality and the fact that there are no limits despite the moments when contradictions hit us like an earthquake. The only limit is this stranger with the dark clothes, waiting in every corner…
‘’We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.’’