I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death (Hardcover)

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Not quite a memoir, not quite a collection of essays, Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am is a group of personal narratives recounting the times when her life edged dangerously close to death. The subtitle, “Seventeen Brushes with Death,” is powerful in itself, but even more so when you read what she experienced.

Each chapter begins with an illustration of a symbolic body part and the year of its occurrence. In “Neck,” O’Farrell, on a solo hike in 1990, fends off a man she chances upon in the woods.  Later she reads that he was a serial killer who strangled his victims. Why was she spared and the others not?  In “Lungs,” she’s with a group of friends on a summer night in 1988. She’s 16 and wants something, anything, to happen. Sitting on a harbor wall almost 50 feet above a turning tide, she impulsively jumps. Having battled a bout of often-deadly encephalitis in childhood, she’d been left with spatial recognition challenges, which meant she couldn’t sense the surface of the water and almost drowned. But she survived, as she does. As we do. Because how many times have we acted in a similarly foolish way and come out on the winning side, ignoring the threats everywhere because of our need to overlook the danger? 

Inspired to write this for her daughter who is burdened with an auto-immune disorder, I Am, I Am, I Am defies categorization. Intensely personal yet somehow universal–and observing every detail, emotion, and vulnerability–O’Farrell presents a thorough appreciation of life by showing it can change in an instant.

Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. You can listen to the review HERE

— Sarah Bagby

February 2018 Indie Next List

“Maggie O'Farrell's memoir left me breathless and heart-sore. There were times I literally had a fist to my own heart in sympathy. The encounters told according to each limb or organ is a genius device; it is as though each distinct part of her body had its own voice and wanted my sole attention. Even the spaces of years between each event were full of meaning and nuance. This is one of the most mesmerizing memoirs I have ever read. The breadth and scope of Maggie's 17 brushes with death left me gasping for air, and her strong voice is indelible: There is no victim here, and life is to be treasured but not treated too delicately.”
— Maeve Noonan, Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, Saratoga Springs, NY


"I Am I Am I Am is a gripping and glorious investigation of death that leaves the reader feeling breathless, grateful, and fully alive. Maggie O'Farrell is a miracle in every sense. I will never forget this book."
--Ann Patchett

An extraordinary memoir--told entirely in near-death experiences--from one of Britain's best-selling novelists, for fans of Wild, When Breath Becomes Air, and The Year of Magical Thinking.

We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death.

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O'Farrell's astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter--for whom this book was written--from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life's myriad dangers.
Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O'Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

About the Author

Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, MAGGIE O'FARRELL grew up in Wales and Scotland and now lives in London. She has worked as a waitress, chambermaid, bike messenger, teacher, arts administrator, and journalist in Hong Kong and London, and as the deputy literary editor of The Independent on Sunday. Her debut novel, After You'd Gone (2000) won a Betty Trask Award and was followed by My Lover's Lover (2002); The Distance Between Us (2004), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox (2006); The Hand That First Held Mine (2010), winner of the Costa Novel Award; Instructions for a Heatwave (2013), and, most recently, This Must Be the Place (2016).

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780525520221
ISBN-10: 0525520228
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 304
Language: English