I follow several celebrity book clubs- Oprah’s Book Club, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, and my newest, Jenna Bush Hager’s Today Show Book Club. I have found wonderful books on each of these book lists.
If you have followed my blog very long, you know that Memoir/Biography is my favorite genre!! I’m am fascinated by peoples’ lives and the twists and turns that influence their lives. So when I heard that Jenna’s pick for April was a memoir, I had to read it.
Her pick for April is The Unwinding Of The Miracle. This is a beautifully written and brutally honest book about a Vietnamese American woman who although she was legally blind beat the odds and graduated from Harvard Law School, fell in love and started a family only to find out in her late 30’s that she had stage 4 colon cancer.
The above explanation explains the title, doesn’t it? I was captivated by this book from the prologue where she lets us know that “This story begins at the ending. Which means that if you are here, then I am not.”
Julie Yip-Williams recounts her early days in Vietnam. Her grandmother thinks it is best for her to be killed than to face life as a blind girl. Her family flees Vietnam and settles in California. Here her life begins to change, and she chooses to live life to the fullest.
Her life is successful and abundant until she receives her cancer diagnosis. She then begins her honest and heart-wrenching discourse on how she copes with life as a dying young woman.
My biggest take away from her writing was the despair and hopelessness she felt. Although she was raised with a Buddhist background, she has no spiritual faith. As a Christian, it was a hard read at times because my belief system is so different. As a Christian, there is always hope. Maybe not the hope of this life after a while, but the hope of a glorious afterlife!!
At one point she shares, “As I prepared to die and the invisible wall between me and the living grew thicker and taller, I mourned my own impending death in an ever-shrinking bubble of isolation, loneliness, and darkness.”
She later does come to terms with her reality and writes, ” For me, true inner strength lies in facing death with serenity, in recognizing that death is not the enemy but simply an inevitable part of life.”
I can’t imagine facing death at a young age knowing I was leaving my husband and children. But, I do hope that HOPE would be part of my journey. The hope that I would see them again, the hope that my prayers would be answered and my children would go on to live happy productive lives. These are just a couple of blessings that come from my faith.
Other thoughts that were meaningful to me:
“I will miss the simple ritual of loading and unloading the dishwasher. I will miss the smooth patina of my cast-iron skillet, brought on by cooking countless meals. I will miss making Costco runs. I will miss watching TV with Josh. I will miss taking my kids to school. will miss this life so very much. They say that youth is wasted on the young. Now, as I approach my final days, I realize that health is wasted on the healthy, and life is wasted on the living. I never understood that until now, as I prepare in earnest to leave this life.”
“But then, once my summer of grief was over, my perspective shifted, and a sort of peace came over me. I was sad to be leaving my husband and my daughters, but I felt something else, too: awe at what was happening to my body. I couldn’t watch myself be born, but with eyes open, I could watch myself die. And that is no less a miracle than any other. It is hard to find the beauty in dying, but I’ve learned; I’m learning still.”
She comes to the end of her life on her terms:
“I have lived even as I am dying, and therein lies a certain beauty and wonder. As it turned out, I have
spent these years unwinding the miracle that has been my life, but on my terms.”
“I will eagerly greet the end of this miracle, and the beginning of another.”
I highly recommend reading this book. It is a raw and honest look at the end of a person’s life.
It is a story that requires thought and reflection on one’s own life.
I would like to think that my story would be written differently. I would hope that my story would end where it began with HOPE. Hope in my God who I believe controls all things. Hope in my choice to believe that I will see my loved ones again someday. Just Hope in general about my life and my journey.
I anxiously await Jenna’s report and thoughts on this book!!
Have you read The Unwinding of the Miracle? If so, I’d love to know your thoughts!!