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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 (27 ratings)
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Publisher's 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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Beautifully written so moving

If you read only one book in your life, read this one. So relatable. So poetic. So affirming. Tears still in my eyes.

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Captivating

This memoir is beautifully written and read. It is a gripping account of life and near death on too many occasions for one life.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-05-2018

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

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 30-08-2017

'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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • The Reluctant Hermit
  • 25-09-2017

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

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  • Nicholas
  • 04-09-2017

Boring

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

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  • Mrs
  • 30-12-2018

wow

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

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  • Mrs Carrie Fordham
  • 17-12-2018

Superb!

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

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  • Laura Bee
  • 09-12-2018

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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  • P. A. Dourado
  • 31-10-2018

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.

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  • Julie baker
  • 28-10-2018

Brilliant

A perfect example of beautiful writing. Every word counts and the stories are gripping. Just brilliant.

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  • penpal
  • 26-10-2018

Gripping

The author’s ability to write is unquestionable and for those like me who have enjoyed her other books they will find this one unusual in its choice of topic.
However bit by bit the horrific tale of the brushes with death she endures and the trials she and her daughter face manage to lift this novel out of its depressing structure into something quite remarkable. Hope and perseverance shine through and leave the reader with a sense of what really matters rather than the trivialities we all focus on which now seem so unimportant in the scheme of things .

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  • Nicola Williams
  • 13-10-2018

The best autobiography I’ve read and so beautifully written.

It is very true when they say “someone else is having a much harder time than you” and they are absolutely right!
Having several near misses in life and so have my family through out the years, I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally manage this book due to having PTSD.
I am so glad I listened to this incredibly written book through Audible.

I do believe in life there are born survivors, people who can think fast on their feet and no matter what life suddenly deals, they can manage incredible adversity.

I think this lady and her family earn an incredible degree of respect, specially her children. I really really hope that life will improve for them all.

What is the biggest beacon within this incredible story is inner strength, intellegence, love, hope, respect, never giving up and still stepping forward through good times and times of sheer and utter hell!

I read this book due to it being so highly accredited as I never read books of this nature due to my own difficulties and struggling with PTSD and combat PTSD, but I now hold this book to my chest like a shield.

I think this would be an excellent book for senior school children to read, alongside Dickens and Shakespeare, as a modern day book of adversity and sheer strength and love.