I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell
I Am, I Am, I Am

I’m a little puzzled as to quite why she's written this, it seems an unusual book, a bit strange and quite macabre. It is telling of times she almost died but didn't. Is it for her own therapy, or to remind the reader to appreciate life? The book definitely made me think lots, mostly about why she has written this and what she was aiming for, and how it made me feel and question things, so that’s a sign of a powerful book, I’m just not sure I felt entertained by it. I guess it is an interesting and unusual and imaginative way to write a memoir.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell available on Amazon
 Kindle  Hardback
 Paperback  Audiobook

I’m a little puzzled as to quite why she’s written this, it seems an unusual book, a bit strange and quite macabre. It is telling of times she almost died but didn’t. Is it for her own therapy, or to remind the reader to appreciate life? The book definitely made me think lots, mostly about why she has written this and what she was aiming for, and how it made me feel and question things, so that’s a sign of a powerful book, I’m just not sure I felt entertained by it. I guess it is an interesting and unusual and imaginative way to write a memoir. 

I wondered how she chose the order of the stories. It’s not chronological, which you’d have thought would be the obvious choice. I then thought with it beginning with the neck, that it was in order of the body parts from top downwards but that doesn’t seem to be the case either. Is it in order of the most dramatic and most life-threatening perhaps? Or the order of what has affected her the most, either mentally or physically? The first story is definitely very gripping so this reels you in, and I wonder if one of the other stories had been first whether readers would have continued, so is the order determined by how each story may grip a reader?

I am a little surprised there was rarely any reflection after each event on what she learned (whether this was to take more care, etc), or details of how she may have changed after the event (whether this was to grab opportunities, etc). It just seemed to be the bald facts and then onto the next and I found that a little unsatisfying, though after the emergency cesarean story she did reflect on how comforting touch is to someone who is scared and in need, and she has used this herself since to comfort others, so she has reflected and changed after that event. 

I was also wondering how she could have had so many near death experiences, seemingly more than anyone else, but I guess some are from her living bravely and putting herself into situations that challenge her and that might be risky, eg travelling to foreign countries, leaving home when only young. I did find myself wondering though if all these things could really happen to one person, some of the stories perhaps felt a bit forced like she was searching for possible situations that could have been life-threatening if they had followed a longer course but they didn’t. I also found myself wondering if it is wise to dwell on all these things, does she find it therapeutic, as it seemed a bit depressing to me. I was yearning for some positivity, such as details of her romance and wedding to Will. Did the whole book have to be just that she nearly died, or is the positivity perhaps supposed to be in that she didn’t die in each of these situations? Although there was positivity when she discovered she was pregnant after giving up hope of this ever happening again.

I did also find myself thinking why she put herself in dangerous situations when she knows what it feels like to nearly lose her life, why doesn’t she take more care and cherish life knowing how fragile it is, and I did particularly think this regarding her daughter and them being in Italy. I also couldn’t help thinking this with her keeping trying for a baby, why put yourself through this heartbreak. She does tackle this though, later in the book, explaining that her brushes with death have made her want to experience things, to push the boundaries, I guess to make something of her life rather than just stay safe and be timid, to live life to the full. 

I was interested that she described the book to her mother as the story of a life told only through near-death experiences, that it would be as a string of moments, snatches of life, and she told her mother this nervously with no idea how her mother would feel about it. I felt a bit of dread picking it up to read another chapter, but there was also a kind of gloomy fascination to see what the next incident would be. 

As each chapter is a complete story unconnected with the one previous and the one after, I think I felt less involved with the book and it felt more like a book you dip into and out of rather than being unable to put down.

The first story was gripping and I was quite tense reading it, with the man who met her on the lonely country path. I was fearful she was going to tell of having been raped and it’d be brutal to read, but thankfully not, although it was sobering to realise that this then happened to someone else.

The miscarriage story seemed different to the others before, this seemed more personal, she seemed keener to make us understand, and to try and educate us.

The final story of her daughter and her allergies and eczema was probably the most gripping, along with the first story. This one felt the most real and powerful, almost like this is the story she really wanted to tell, and that the whole book could have been about this story. It was odd, as I was actually thinking with the encephalitis story that it could possibly have been better written by her parents who could relate the powerlessness of seeing their daughter, Maggie, seriously ill and the agony of trying to face the fact that she might die and that even as her parents they couldn’t save her themselves, and then she writes a story from this perspective about her own daughter. It was very poignant when she said she’d gladly take the life-threatening disease from her daughter and suffer it herself, that made me wonder again if that final story was actually the main point of the book, to emphasise that all the drama and danger she has gone through is nothing compared to seeing her daughter go through this.

I am torn about this book, it does bring up strong feelings and emotions, so it is clearly well written to be able to do that. I kind of feel it was more beneficial for her writing it, than it was for us reading it, which isn’t a bad thing I guess if it helped her work through things. I do wonder though if it would have been published without her name on it.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell available on Amazon
 Kindle  Hardback
 Paperback  Audiobook

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