Kelly's Reviews > Learning to Breathe: One Woman's Journey of Spirit and Survival

Learning to Breathe by Alison Wright
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Jan 20, 09

Recommended to Kelly by: Santica Shin
Read in January, 2009

Learning to Breathe is a memoir by photojournalist Alison Wright. In her book she describes barely surviving a horrific bus crash in Laos and her subsequent recovery.

What is truly amazing about Wright's story is that she really should not have survived given the extent of her internal injuries and the fact that it was nearly 24 hours before she was even able to get to a hospital in Thailand with just adequate enough care to operate on her.

What remains so vivid for me about her story is how her first level of care was in a remote Laotian village where she was only able to receive stitches by a non-medically trained man with something that looked like an upholstery needle. The building was in a pasture, unclean and surrounded by livestock. From there she endured an excruciating journey in the back of a pick up truck with only the stars and her meditation techniques to focus on and to help divert her pain.

Eventually, after surgery in Thailand and a lengthy recovery time there, she was able to fly to her home town of San Francisco where she would endure many more surgeries on her fragile and wrecked body, and years of recovery and physical therapy. Interspersed with her medical experiences are stories of her travels all over the world, her photos, and her deepening sense of Buddhist spirituality.

Hers is an incredible story and her memoir is well worth the read, particularly if you like adventure and travel books. I will admit to feeling like her life and her experiences were almost too incredible to be believed, and I wondered if perhaps I had been "James Freyed". Because her story and her life are so absolutely incredible, I found myself wondering if we will see Ms. Wright on Oprah one day admitting to doctoring the details? Or is it just that the scope of her experiences lies so far outside my realm of life experiences that it is hard to imagine? I choose to believe the latter unless I hear otherwise.

I enjoyed her descriptions of Nepal and Tibet in particular. I was moved by her thoughts on human love, the interconnectedness of every being on this planet, and the power to find joy and peace even in the face of suffering.
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