I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell [in Library Journal]
Cats may have nine lives, but Maggie O’Farrell, who won the Costa Book Award for The Hand That First Held Mine, has had 17, as revealed in this stupendous collection of essays named for various body parts that have caused her near demise. Her aural stand-in, British actor Daisy Donovan, is temperamentally well matched, never acknowledging any hints of self-pity or despair. Donovan’s steady tone embodies O’Farrell’s remarkable strength recalling illnesses, violence, and accidents.
At 3, O’Farrell narrowly escaped decapitation-by-car-boot (trunk) and full-body flattening by auto two years later. Two near-drownings took her breath away. She’s escaped a machete and hurtling knives. She talked her way out of strangulation as a teenager.
Remarkably, her near-fatal youth left her unafraid of death: “I viewed my continuing life as an extra, a bonus, a boon; I could do with it what I wanted” – until she became a parent. The final chapter, about a daughter made fragile with life-threatening allergies, is perhaps the collection’s most affecting, in which keeping her child alive “one more day” becomes a daily miracle. Immediate, irreverent, riveting, O’Farrell’s mortal escapes emerge as illuminating, inspiring affirmation of everyday life.