I am, I am, I am: Seventeen Brushes with Death.
by Maggie O'Farrell.
In the last decade, I have found my taste in books shifting towards non-fiction and specifically memoirs. Those authored by Irish, Indian and American writers from the south hold an even higher level of appeal. I can’t easily explain the last one but I do believe the opportunity to live for a period of time in both Dublin and Odisha explain the first two. I've just finished Maggie O’Farrell’s new memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am, and will now track down her other books so thoroughly did her remarkable writing speak to me. This short book is a compilation of 17 self-contained sections, each describing her real-life near-death experiences; encephalitis as a child, a near-drowning as a teen, a labor and childbirth gone awry, a robbery while traveling abroad. Not surprisingly, many of these incidents contain references of a medical nature which is also of interest to me. However, it’s O’Farrell’s stunning ability as a writer to craft an atmosphere, a feeling, that is so relatable. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the most disturbing chapter involves O’Farrell's moment of clarity as a teen where she becomes aware that she is the quarry of a human stalker. She narrowly avoids disaster but her subsequent frustration in convincing officials to take her concerns seriously haunts her for the rest of her life. The fallout from this indifference to her concerns echoes many of the issues at the root of what is occurring this very moment in the #metoo movement, enabling (or here preventing) the cycle of violence against women to continue. The first chapter, titled, Neck-1990, should be required reading for every girl over the age of 8. Thought-provoking.
Review by Sarah Ehrenson