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I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  25,819 ratings  ·  3,560 reviews
We are never closer to life than when we brush up against the possibility of death.

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O'Farrell's astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An e
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 2nd 2017 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Pamela Anderson-Bartholet Yes. Maggie O'Farrell begins the book by quoting Sylvia Plath's line from THE BELL JAR--"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart…moreYes. Maggie O'Farrell begins the book by quoting Sylvia Plath's line from THE BELL JAR--"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am."(less)
Melissa Davis “‘Why, yes,' he said, 'I know of a cure for everything: salt water.'
"'Salt water?' I asked him.
"'Yes,' he said, 'in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.'
~Seven Gothic Tales

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Angela M
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it

I have read three of her novels and count Maggie O’Farrell as one of my favorite writers and I know I have to get to those that I haven’t read. This memoir is as beautifully written as her novels. O’Farrell shares with us some very personal experiences, memories of times in her life when she was in danger, close to death. As in her novels, she had me feeling and thinking about the complexities of life, sometimes the danger that lies near all of us. While she writes about things that happened to
OMG OMG OMG! Pogo stick time!

Dear Maggie O’Farrell,

I’m bouncing high, zigzagging through your 17 brushes with death. Barefoot because my socks were knocked off. I can’t stop! Yep, I’m downright manic! What an amazing memoir you wrote! One of the best books I’ve read this year!

I am I am I am absolutely in love with your book. I can’t help it that I’m stuttering. It’s that or remain speechless, which isn’t my style.

My brain is on fire! Matchy-matchy: My head, your language. Oh, your tone! The way
oooh, goodreads choice awards semifinalist for best memoir/autobiography 2018! what will happen?

At the time, I gaze up at the sky, the birds, the fast-moving clouds, and I am thinking about the dense forest behind us, about how I do not want to be dragged in there, not at all. I do not want to see the trees closing over my head, feel the scratch and pluck of bushes against my skin, my clothes, the cold damp of the ground in there. My thoughts are very simple. They pulse through my head: let me g
Elyse  Walters
Unless a ‘memoir’ literally shifts me -changes my thinking - transforms me in some major way -
I tend to retreat to my standard 3 star rating.

I didn’t equally ‘enjoy’ each story in this collection -
It’s a mix collection for me.
A few stories felt embellished.
In the middle of the book - I started to feel as if I had enough. A couple of the stories felt a little narcissistic—
....but then I felt sad for Maggie’s sick child - heck I felt awful for Maggie, too, when ‘she’ was a child in the hospita
"We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall."

One day early in February, we had a rare day of sun and sixty degrees after having just endured subzero temperatures the week before… brrr! I could not get my sneakers on fast enough. I ran out the door without a jacket to get a little fresh air and exercise. Now, I very rarely listen to audiobooks. Don’t get me wrong,
Amalia Gkavea
‘’There is nothing unique or special in a near-death experience. They are not rare; everyone, I would venture, has had them, at one time or another, perhaps without even realising it.’’

How difficult it is to write a text about a memoir...No matter if you liked it or not, no matter whether you shared the writer’s views or not, a memoir is a testament of someone’s heart and soul and how can anyone dissect it so light-heartedly? This memoir by Maggie O’Farrell is one of the most poignant, power
Diane S ☔
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read
Love her fiction so wanting to read her memoir was a no brainier. A different take for sure as she recounts the near death experiences she has encountered in her life. Reading this made me think of all the mishaps I have had, that could have turned fatal. Something I think we all share to various degrees.

Honest and open are the two words I thought of while reading this. The things she shares, private moments, secrets she had held close, but now share. Yet, it her experiences with motherhood that
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible, memoir
I am a fan of Maggie O' Farrell Novels and love her descriptive writing. Her story telling is unique and fresh. Her latest book is totally different as it's a memoir that is quirky, interesting, honest, revealing and vivid.

Told through 17 near death experiences that the author experienced throughout her life, you find yourself reading with bated breath as O Farrell draws you in with words and descriptions that make the reading experience very real and poignant.

At O’Farrell’s near-catastrophic
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ew
I have never read any of Maggie O’Farrell’s fiction. It is not for lack of good intentions. I have certainly heard good things about her writing, which is what made me jump at chance to read an advance copy of this brief memoir.

At first blush, the way O’Farrell has chosen to organize her memoir is odd. Each chapter is focused on a near death experience. The chapters are out of chronological order. And while each chapter deals with a particular experience, it meanders to many other parts of O’Far
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author has certainly led an interesting and adventurous life! This book is a series of essays, all related to her near brushes with death and uniquely titled according to the body part that nearly did her in: cranium, lungs, circulatory system, etc. She is either extraordinarily unlucky or her admittedly risky lifestyle makes her more vulnerable than most. Or maybe it’s a little of both.

As with any essay collection, some of the stories resonated with me more than others but they are all beau
Lucy Langford
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.”

This is the memoir of Maggie O'Farrel documenting the near bushes of death that have been riddled through out her life. Each chapter introduces a different time and age of the author and her experiences grazing near to death. We are witness to the encounters with death that the author has endured, for example; nea
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death is a memoir by Maggie O’Farrell, recounting her near death experiences over the course of her life. She is in her mid-forties at the time of publication and the memoir includes instances from childhood, adult life, and parenthood.

Some of the occurrences detailed in the book felt like a stretch to classify as “near death” (to me, anyway) yet as with any memoir, I understand experiences are deeply personal. In particular, I found the chapters about O
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've been looking forward to reading I Am, I Am, I Am for so long because so many people have loved it. But I think this is a case where my expectations just didn't match what I got. I thought it would be a thrilling collection of essays about near death experiences. What I got was very little of that. Only a few of the experiences were even that interesting or nearing death while the rest were a stretch to fit that mold.

Probably the single thing I most disliked in this book was the author's wri
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-library
Memoirs are not my thing, but I was unable to ignore a couple of my GR friends' fine reviews for this book.  It's good to amble over to a different genre from time to time.  This one will have you looking back at the times of your life for near misses, and how your decisions may have changed your direction, if only slightly.  

I am not a lover of memoirs in general, but

I am glad to have read this one.

I am returning to the dark side now. 
Helene Jeppesen
I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. Properly explain my feelings about this book :)
“I still cannot bear anyone to touch my neck: not my husband, not my children, not a kindly doctor, who once wanted to check my tonsils. I flinch away before I even register why.”

This is from the first chapter, “Neck – 1990”, which is when she was 18 or so. There are 17 chapters, each titled with a part of the body and a year, ranging from 1975, when she was three, to today.

She introduces the book with this quotation from Sylvia Plath:
I took a deep breath and listened to the old
brag of my h
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I might have been too excited about this. I have been looking forward to this memoir ever since I first saw this stunning cover. I finally caved in and bought myself a copy and started it the moment it arrived. And I enjoyed this. But it wasn’t quite the revelation I was maybe expecting.

I love the framing of this memoir: Maggie O’Farrell tells her story as a series of essays, each concentrating on a near death experience. I do like memoirs that play with format and I enjoyed the unchronological
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an outstanding book.

It was excellent on many levels. One was the relative uniqueness of the memoir — we learned about interesting aspects of Maggie O’Farrell’s life via 17 near-death experiences. I remember when first coming across a GR review of this book the reviewer listed a number of near-death experiences of his. And I immediately thought of near-death experiences in my own personal life. I would think most people have had close encounters with death or if not death a catastrophe.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Breathtaking, beautiful, heartbreaking, human. This unique memoir is a chronicle of self-awareness, of gratitude, of grace, of luck, of strength, of pain, of living. It is list after fascinating list of figurative places you, too have been and feelings you, too have felt. And for those with which you have had no experience, you come away pulsating with understanding at a confounding level. Her essay “Baby and Bloodstream” is the most affecting and honest look at pregnancy loss I’ve ever read, ha ...more
I AM, I AM, I AM is a uniquely written compilation of near death experiences....close calls....illustrated chapter by chapter with the body part connected to the incident.

Some stories will break your heart, some will make you question her choices, and a couple others will absolutely give you the OMG, the man on the path in the woods. Maggie used her head and saved her own bacon in this one!

An escapologist as a child, a risk taker and traveler as an adult, I am, I am, I am, tells

Veronica ⭐️
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, true-story
I am Iam Iam is moving extracts from a life less ordinary; a life lived to the full.

”Is this your life?” She asks.
“It’s’s just......snatches of a life. A string of moments. Some chapters will be long. Others might be really short.”

The chapters are at times terrifying and at other times heart breaking. These short snippets of a life give an insight into the personal life of Maggie O’Farrell and really show the reader who she is.

O’Farrell shows us that real people, just like you and I,
4.5/5. There were three things that made this book stand out to me:
- The nonlinear narrative structure – the seventeen chapters, the eponymous "seventeen brushes with death", are told non-chronologically, all covering a certain point in Maggie O'Farrell's life spanning from early childhood until now. It was never confusing to read, but made for an interesting and wholly original account of a life.
- The writing style, which I fell in love with from page one. It's absolutely beautiful written wi
”And you want to travel with her, and you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she's touched your perfect body with her mind”

-- Suzanne, Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen

When I saw that this book was one of the choices in the Best Book of the Year awards for goodreads, I wanted to squeeze this one in today, and I’m so glad that I did. A brilliant memoir that doesn’t really read like a memoir, the writing is her standard beautiful, brutally honest, somewhat bare-bon
Skyler Autumn
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 Stars

Maggie O'Farrell cleverly uses her near death experiences as a sort of bench marker for her life and as a catalyst to veer into other aspects ranging from her family, to her childhood, to her romantic relationships in order to paint a much larger picture of her life as a whole.

This book is really captivating and descriptively written as every near death experience leaves you with a range of emotions. I found the first chapter (about meeting a deadly stranger in the middle of desolate
British novelist O’Farrell provides us an unusual collection of personal essays on the theme of near-death experiences in her life, with each chapter headed by an image and label for the relevant vital organ. From her childhood we get the events and aftermath reactions of nearly getting run down by a car while crossing a road, nearly getting caught by her mother slamming a car trunk, and serious bout of encephalitis. As an adolescent, near drownings after jumping off a pier or getting caught in ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death is a beautifully written memoir about life and death, about the fragility and preciousness of life when death lurks just around the corner.

At first I was really annoyed with this book as I thought that it was about the author having almost died 17 times. It is not. Most of the instances she writes about are normal and frequent occurrences -- she "could" have been hit by a car as a child, she "could" have died in childbirth if she was living in a ti
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
"If you are aware of these moments, they will alter you. You can try to forget them, to turn away from them, to shrug them off, but they will have infiltrated you, whether you like it or not. They will take up residence inside you and become part of who you are, like a heart stent or a pin that holds together a broken bone."

I don't know exactly what clear-eyed aim Maggie O'Farrell took while writing her memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. Was it set purposefully to resurrect the most fearful and the most q
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
As an unapologetic stoic by nature, I hate hearing people complain about their health. This book was one annoying complaint after another with literally NO wisdom gleaned from each event. It was unbelievably self-indulgent and a bore to read through. I read to the end because it was a book club book but was rolling my eyes after the 4th near death experience. By 17, I just didn't believe her anymore. A good memoir is one where you know the author is making stuff up or stretching the truth a bit, ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-bio
"I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am."—Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I thoroughly enjoyed this unique take on a memoir! I've never read any of O'Farrell's books, and I'm so glad I started here. O'Farrell recalls seventeen close brushes with death at various points in her life, dividing each chapter into both year and organ(s) that was endangered.

The writing was so compelling and the language beautiful, that I could have easily read this in one sitting
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Maggie O'Farrell (born 1972, Coleraine Northern Ireland) is a British author of contemporary fiction, who features in Waterstones' 25 Authors for the Future. It is possible to identify several common themes in her novels - the relationship between sisters is one, another is loss and the psychological impact of those losses on the lives of her characters. ...more

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“We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.” 53 likes
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