I am, I am, I am – Maggie O’Farrell

Published by: Tinder Press
Pages: 290
Date released: 31/05/2018
Date read: 03/10/2018

A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital.

This is a memoir with a difference: seventeen encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal to us a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. It is a book to make you question yourself: what would you do if your life was in danger? How would you react? And what would you stand to lose? “I am, I am, I am” is a book you will finish, newly conscious of your own vulnerability, and determined to make every heartbeat count.

I was unsure about this book after finishing it. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Maggie O’Farrell and I dread to think what kind of loss the literary world would have faced if Maggie had succumbed to any of these near-death experiences, but I felt it was a bit bitty. I’ve heard some people love it, whereas others are not a fan. I put myself somewhere in between.

It’s hard to believe that anyone could have possibly had 17 near-death experiences but it’s right there in black and white. I think the writing and description that Maggie puts into telling her stories is magnificent, and it’s hard to imagine anyone going through all of this and still be walking out the other side and producing the magnificent work we have come to love.

But would it work better in a more concise, novel format where the near-death experiences were linked, with more backstory and aftereffects, rather than just inconsistent bitty chapters? I’m not sure. But either way, this is a book everyone should read, if only to remind you how precious life is, and how it can turn at a split second’s notice.

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