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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 (270 ratings)

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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

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'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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing

I have read nearly all Maggie o Farrell ‘s books and could not believe that she could have written such a poor story, with very little continuity and the plot was all over the place. What a load of maudlin bunkum, sorry I used a credit!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Can't believe this won the Costa

I wouldn't wish any of these events on anyone but I found the book was just several short stories that failed to hold my interest. Disappointed as it got rave reviews on the radio

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Boring

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

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  • DHM
  • UK
  • 20-01-19

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!

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wow

teared up about the cat! what a powerful ending, much more than her own brushes with death.

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Superb!

Wonderful descriptions and rich language made this book a joy to hear. I highly recommend it.

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gripping, heart in mouth. thoroughly recommend.

moving, relatable, out of this world, great for travellers, parents, anyone with empathy. download now.

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  • 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