I Am, I Am, I Am
by Maggie O’Farrell
In Maggie O’Farrell’s memoir, I Am, I Am, I Am, she recounts seventeen experiences she’s had with death– from childbirth to brushes with murder, as well as her second hand experience as she attempts to protect her chronically ill daughter from danger.
There’s a lot covered in this memoir. In particular, there’s a focus on the lives of our children, and how our own trauma can be projected onto our kids, as we attempt to protect them from what we’ve experienced. It’s an incredibly moving look into parenthood, and I could see so much of this in how my mum has raised me as her eldest daughter.
“In any fairy-tale, getting what you wish for comes at a cost. There is always a codicil, an addendum to the granting of a wish. There is always a price to pay.”
O’Farrell writes these experiences, less as gratuitous stories, and more as the real horrors individuals experience. In the moment when we are experiencing these events, it’s about survival, and so O’Farrell writes so deftly that you feel her pain, her fear, in those moments.
“I can go for days without thinking about it; at other times it feels like a defining moment. It means nothing. It means everything.”
In the past year, I have lost both my dad, and my nan. I’ve never lived through so much pain as losing two people who were intrinsic to my everyday life, and sometimes, it’s only when those people aren’t there that you realise how much they meant to you.
There’s so much about the grieving process I see as traumatic, and O’Farrell’s ‘It means nothing. It means everything’ is so true to that experience. You can be coping one minute, and crying the next. You undersell your own trauma, your own grief, and this book really helped me understand that inner conflict.
Like so many books I’ve read since the passing of my dad, I Am, I Am, I Am, rather than fastening the grieving process, instead helped me understand it more. A memoir about near-death experiences sounds unlikely to help people, but I’ve found it comforting, a warm blanket.
Content warning: death, violence against women, stalking, chronic illness, harm against children
If you like this review, you might like:
🍎History of the Rain by Niall Williams
🍎The Rattled Bones by S.M. Parker
🍎The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell