Listen free for 30 days

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

Narrated by: Daisy Donovan
Length: 5 hrs and 58 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (338 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

As selected for the Zoe Ball Bookclub, a Book of the Year in The Sunday Times, The Times, Guardian, Irish Times, Observer, Red and The Telegraph.

I Am, I Am, I Am is a memoir with a difference - the enthralling story of an extraordinary woman's life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, a story you finish newly conscious of life's fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.

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. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times best-selling author Maggie O'Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?  

I Am, I Am, I Am will speak to readers who loved Cheryl Strayed's Wild or Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers.

©2017 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2017 Headline Publishing Group Ltd
What members say
Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    205
  • 4 Stars
    68
  • 3 Stars
    41
  • 2 Stars
    13
  • 1 Stars
    11
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    215
  • 4 Stars
    46
  • 3 Stars
    22
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    9
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    177
  • 4 Stars
    64
  • 3 Stars
    32
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    10

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

'where the axe may fall'

O'Farrell’s like-no-other memoir leaves you in awe of both her frightening experiences and her brilliant writing. O'Farrell suffers from various neurological problems following a childhood illness, but as a teenager she jumps into deep water as a dare and nearly drowns because, as she well knew, she could not tell up from down. In South America a machete is held to her throat and all her travel money stolen because she and her boyfriend are in a district where travellers are warned there are armed robbers. Why does she take a 9-week old baby already raging from severe reflux (which she refused to tell the health visitor about) to rural Italy where she's left alone in a car to be rocked by thieves in their attempt to get in? She takes her 7 year-old son who can't swim on her back off the coast of Zanzibar to a post a tourist had told her was easy to reach. She finds herself in deep water and her weak arms unable to hold him. Many of these brushes with death - and there are more - seem the result of a pathological recklessness, a crazed addiction to risk, and because of this, although the experiences are terrifying, her culpability reduces your sympathy.

That is, until the later chapters when she explains the 'hinge' on which her whole life swings: as an 8-year-old she is the little girl dying from encephalitis. But she survives: she learns to walk again and do all the things which the doctors told her parents she never would. She was ALIVE and she would LIVE - the rest of her life was a massive defiant kick in the teeth for Proud Death of John Donne's poem. All the risk-taking falls into place and O'Farrell becomes truly admirable. I Am I Am I Am is understandable.

The later chapters also relate without self-pity her fearful births history - a near fatal haemorrhage following a mismanaged Caesarian and subsequent miscarriages. Also without self-pity is her detailing of daily life with her 8-year daughter who suffers from a rare immune deficiency which means that from birth she scratched her glue-dry skin to shreds and if she even goes anywhere near nuts or anywhere near where someone may have eaten nuts, she can and does fall into possibly fatal anaphylactic shock. O'Farrell's life involves heart-breaking precautions needed to keep her daughter safe for one more day. 'She IS She IS'. It tears the heart to ribbons just listening.

O'Farrell must be pleased with Daisy Donovan's beautiful narration which adds another vein to this visceral memoir. Audible is offering a free download of a to-minute interview with O'Farrell which is mainly her talking about her experiences behind her latest novel This Must Be The Place (reviewed here by me on 26th July 2016) and also provides insights into her working methods.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Astonishing, beautiful, heart-rending

Beautifully, captivatingly, life-affirmingly written. Left me dazed. When you are listening to the last chapter, you can’t be interrupted - you won’t allow it - so make sure you are somewhere that allows for that, that gives you space to listen to the end. And don’t forget to breathe when listening to it. I think I forgot once or twice. Or held my breath without realising. Or something. And if you have ever looked after someone highly vulnerable and watched them suffer, doing everything you can think of to help, and it’s not enough, you’ll need a stiff drink nearby at the end, too.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Exhausting

It must be ruddy exhausting being Maggie O'Farrell. From what I've learned of her in this book she is one of those people for whom normal expectations and limits are like barbed wire fencing them in. Alpha people: people who do things their own way, come what may. People who have been everywhere and seen everything by the time they are 40. People who want the best, the most exciting, the worst, the most extreme — anything but the mundane. The people who, even though they know they can't use one arm properly and have nearly drowned previously, decide to swim out to a floating platform off a beach while carrying their small child and don't, when they realise they're out of their depth, stop and turn back. I think it was that particular close-shave that made me step back and look at this book, and the author, differently.

I began thinking about issues of recklessness and privilege and self-dramatisation and the relentless me, me, me of it all. I know it's an autobiography but even so...

The really heart-breaking stuff is at the end in O'Farrell's account not of her own but of her daughter's suffering. It is horrifying, thought-provoking and something one would wish for no child or parent. As I closed the book and put it down I wondered whether it is O'Farrell's attempt to deal with the odds that are stacked against her daughter. In seeking to make her own already high-coloured and dramatic life seem even more dramatic and dangerous than it has been is she seeking to reassure herself that her daughter can survive in an infinitely more risky world than even the one O'Farrell inhabits, one where every nut and egg is a potential killer?

I see from the rave reviews that many people have enjoyed this book for what it seems to be. I am a poor swimmer, like O'Farrell. I seem to have been dragged down by the book's undercurrents.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Moving, harrowing, well-written

I Am, I Am, I Am is a memoir by award-winning British author, Maggie O'Farrell. It is subtitled Seventeen Brushes With Death, and in describing these (mostly, but not exclusively, her own) experiences, O'Farrell also, of course, shares many other important moments of her life. As well as describing the situation that led to them, the physical effects they had on her and those close to her, she also notes the change in attitude they caused.

There is a deep sense of violence faced by a woman's body, which is apparent in her experiences. She describes near misses with vehicles, a mugging, juvenile encephalitis, the birth of her first child, near drownings, a knife-throwing act, dysentery-induced dehydration, and an encounter with a murderer.

The section about her miscarriages is deeply moving. She questions why it isn't discussed and why it is given little exposure. She explains how mothers end up feeling isolated because of the little care given to those who have experienced it. Her voice and pain shines through at this particular point.

As with her fiction, O'Farrell’s prose is often exquisite. This is a privileged peek into the life of an amazing author, a moving and fascinating read.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Boring

I listened to hours of this book and could take no more. Ideal for the insomniac.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good but needs concentration

a bit like the friend who tells you stories all evening. at first it's really good and you are drawn in but towards the end I was thinking 'are we nearly there yet?'. It's got interesting sections but sorry, I won't be rushing to buy another from the same author.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

absorbing

I loved the descriptive lists, poetic nature and absorbing quality of the writing. Last chapter drew whole book together.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • G
  • 17-08-19

Reflection

I did not want to read, or listen, to this book -I work in health care and deal wth life and death issues every day. However I’m so glad I did ( thank you book club). It’s grippping from the start, made me realise how near we are all to close shaves many days and how often luck plays a part. The narrator is excellent, I had to remind myself it’s non fiction and I confess at the end I researched to make sure it was a happy ending. Maggie O’F is a brilliant author, thank you for a glimpse into to your life.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful!

True accounts that are as gripping as thrillers. Narrator has a lovely, clear, expressive voice, but moderate, so that it doesn't get in the way of the narrative.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Original inspiring and thought providing

The writing is Flawless, and because the chapters talk about different periods in the author's life it's super engaging. but the most wonderful thing about this book is the way that Maggie O'Farrell is able to write so descriptively, her imagination and attention to detail is impeccable. she's obviously so down to earth so intelligent and I'm definitely going to be reading more Maggie O'Farrell now that I've discovered how wonderful wonderful writing.
the narrator also does the book Justice but I'm going to be buying a hard copy because there are parts of the book that I want to go back and read and retain in my brain!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 04-05-18

Seldom do I want to read a book twice

What a beautifully written book - words crafted together so well and a spectacular vocabulary. Loved the pace and the tone - I am a new huge fan