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The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  8,803 ratings  ·  1,256 reviews
As a young mother facing a terminal diagnosis, Julie Yip-Williams began to write her story, a story like no other. What began as the chronicle of an imminent and early death became something much more--a powerful exhortation to the living.

That Julie Yip-Williams survived infancy was a miracle. Born blind in Vietnam, she narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grand
Hardcover, 315 pages
Published January 8th 2019 by Random House
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  8,803 ratings  ·  1,256 reviews

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Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"The story begins at the ending. Which means that if you are here, then I am not."

(Source: The New York Times)
- Julie Yip-Williams (1976 – 2018)

The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After is an incredible memoir of a wonderful life. Despite all odds, Julie continued to make the best of life, travel across the world, create memorable moments and give all the possible attention to her loved ones. This memoir is about creating a perspective, making us
A few of my library holds came in recently so I am taking a much-needed break from the ARCs I’ve been working through in the hopes that I am able to finish the books before they are due back to the library. One book that I’ve been wanting to read since I heard of its publication earlier in the year is Julie Yip-Williams’s posthumously published memoir The Unwinding of the Miracle . Julie died a year ago, in March 2018, succumbing to metastatic colon cancer at the age of 42. Back when she was ...more
In the vein of Until I Say Goodbye: A Book about Living, When Breath Becomes Air, and The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, The Unwinding of the Miracle is an incredibly personal memoir about death and dying but that is ultimately, triumphantly, about life and living.

This isn't one of those books targeted at cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families. This is a book with a powerful message for everyone: life can be terribly unfair sometimes, and it's devastating. You're allow
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks, memoirs, grief
This is one of those bewitching books that found me when I really needed it.

"The Unwinding of the Miracle" is a difficult book to describe. When I was trying to tell a friend about it, I settled on Cancer/Grief Memoir, but that doesn't fully capture its impact. The author started writing it when she was diagnosed with colon cancer and wasn't expected to live more than a few years. It's the story of Julie's cancer experience, but it's also a story of her incredible life journey and a reminder of
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2019
Julie Yip-Williams was diagnosed with Stage VI colon cancer in 2013 at the age of 37. Her memoir has been crafted from a series of blog entries she wrote to chronicle her life, both for herself and for her young daughters who would survive her when she died five years later.

Julie’s life was remarkable in many ways. Born blind to Chinese parents in South Vietnam in 1976, Julie’s paternal grandmother ordered her mother to take Julie to an herbalist who would give her a concoction to kill her so sh
Val Robson
Feb 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Julie Yip-Williams has a very interesting story to tell in the 37 years before her colon cancer diagnosis in 2013 but this story is rarely mentioned as the book concentrates on the tests, treatments, clinical trials, pain and side effects she’s endured from diagnosis to her death in 2018. She lists all the different cancer drugs she’s had or considered with a lot of detail about the results of ongoing blood tests, MRI, PET, CAT scans, CEA levels, etc.

I feel very bad about giving such a review a
Louise Wilson
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Julie Yip-Williams was just thirty seven years old when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Married, with two young daughters and with a career in law, she spent five years coming to terms and knowing that eventually her illness would lead to her death. Yes, its the circle of life that we all revolve around, but no one expects or wants to die that young! Julie's parents lived in Communist Vietnam. When Julie was born, she had cataracts and her grandmother begged Julie's parents to take her to a ...more
Connie G
Julie Yip-William's early life involved a series of miracles. She was born in Vietnam with congenital cataracts causing blindness, and the surgeons had fled the country at the end of the Vietnam War. Her grandmother wanted the disabled girl to be given a lethal poison, but the herbalist refused. Then her family escaped to Hong Kong on an overloaded, leaky boat. They eventually came to the United States where she had surgery on her eyes. She was still legally blind, but could read with a magnifyi ...more
Dear Julie,

You don’t know me, but I finished reading your book late last night. You’ve been dead for eleven months. I wonder how you are, if you’ve reached the afterlife you so strongly believe in despite your lack of religiosity.

I was reluctant to pick up your book. A posthumously published memoir by a 42-year-old woman with Stage IV colorectal cancer? Excuse me while I run in the opposite direction. I read one other cancer memoir that didn’t engage me, which I still rated high because of the
Erica Clou
I lost both of my parents to cancer, my dad when he was 61 and I was 31, and my mom when she was 60 and I was 38. Since losing my dad I’ve read a lot, including a number of these end of life books. The good ones come from people who either gave thought to how to live life before being diagnosed or read a lot of literature throughout their life. The worst are a hodgepodge of memoir and random “deep” thoughts with no organizing theme.

In this case, the life story of Yip-Williams is somewhat intere
Lori Gottlieb
May 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a gorgeous book. I gushed about it in The New York Times, here: ...more
As you might expect from a book compiled from blog posts, written by someone grappling with her life and death, Yip-William's writing in this book vacillates all over the place. Certain passages are beautiful and inspiring, achieving her stated purpose of conveying the insights that she hopes may assist others (cancer patients, yes, but also anyone suffering) in knowing they are not alone. Other passages, however, are bitter and devoid of empathy (see her repeated messages of jealousy directed a ...more
Candice Lee
Jan 26, 2019 rated it did not like it
I feel bad writing this review as I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead, but this memoir was painful for me to get through. While I can appreciate the value it holds for individuals in similar situations, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful gift for her daughters to remember her by, I was bored to tears with the constant statistics, test results and cliches.
Stephanie Borders
Sep 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, 2018, netgalley
Julie Yip-Williams was only 37 when she was diagnosed with the colon cancer that would eventually kill her. Married, with a burgeoning law career and two young daughters, Yip-Williams spent the next five years coming to terms with what death means. Her goal was to embrace the inevitable. She knew her disease would kill her, sooner rather than later. She was heartsick at the thought of leaving her two young daughters motherless. At the same time, death is the ending that we all must face, and Yip ...more
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this book in exhange for an honest review.

Given the subject matter, I feel terrible even writing this review - they say one should never speak unkindly of the dead. That's not what I wish to do here, anyway - I simply want to warn the living.

Unless you are greatly helped by reading any and all cancer memoirs, you can skip this one. My eyes were glazed over by the prologue. I stuck it out into chapter one but as the clichés continued to pile on,
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
Julie was a friend of a friend; I never met her.

This is dark and intense. I had to read it in little chunks, so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I especially liked her attacks on what she called the “hope industrial complex.” I so admire her honesty, even when it gets dark and brutal. She must have been really amazing.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The memoir The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams will most likely be at the top of my list of books read this year. The memoir is about Julie Yip-Williams' life, death and living while dying of cancer at the age of forty-tw0. As she explains, this is a memoir for those that are left behind after she passes away.

The recounting of her life, thoughts, experiences, and feelings is a tale of a remarkable journey and life. Her insights that she passes along are so poignant and profound a
Lily Herman
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
God, I don't even think I can properly explain how much I loved this memoir. How Julie Yip-Williams wrote so thoroughly and clearly about so many different experiences—ranging from devastating to majestic—is nothing short of miraculous itself.

Yip-Williams unravels so much more than just her cancer diagnosis and the end of her life in her book. She explains her battle with her own internalized ableism as a blind person, her feelings about her family's long-held secrets, and her ongoing struggle t
Books on Stereo
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
The Unwinding of the Miracle is, simply, a beautiful mess. Yip Williams unwinds and rewinds her life experiences as a way to comes to terms with her life and subsequent death. It is repetitive and at times grating, however recollecting and reconciling one's life in the facce of death isn't narratively perfect; it's messy. A brilliant, fierce exploration of the value/meaning of life in the face of death. ...more
A lawyer facing late-stage cancer reflects on the happy life she had despite a disability and an inauspicious start, and bids farewell to her family. It was miracle enough to have survived her first few years (blindness, a euthanasia attempt, and fleeing Vietnam by boat), but she eventually graduated from Harvard Law School and joined a Wall Street law firm. The author dubs herself “a somewhat ruthless realist.” Early on she vowed she would do nothing desperate or bizarre in her quest for healin ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
At times it grew difficult to get through Julie Yip-Williams' honest (and occasionally repetitive) account of her life with and without cancer. Depending on my mood, I could have given this book much fewer stars. I decided that I appreciated the candor and, in the end, decided that I will often reflect on her commentary as a I move through my own life, which marks it a good book.

One comment, not necessarily a negative about this book, Julie Yip-Williams' fight with cancer is extended in part bec
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
While this book was a welcome perspective on cancer, dying, and death, I was distracted by her privilege. At various times she raged at doctors, suggested people with cancer travel the world and not work, and plotted an escape from a hospital for immigrants and poor people - which is exactly what she was in early life.
Traci at The Stacks
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A very honest look at dying from cancer. This book doesn’t shy away from the crappy parts and the rage. There are moments of profound wisdom and other times it went on too long.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I don't like not finishing books, especially those I have received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. But this book has triggers for me and I am finding it a very upsetting read. Also I dislike the facts and stats, the nasty name given to the poor person who might become the second wife and step mother to her children. It may be a cultural thing bearing in mind the attitude of her grandmother to her as a tiny baby but I can't read anymore. Abandoned at 17%. ...more
Shirley Freeman
I loved this beautiful and compelling memoir of living with and dying from colon cancer. Julie Yip-Williams packed a lot of living into her too-short life. She didn't mince words when writing about the awful stuff of cancer but she also wrote with eyes wide open about life, relationships, and deep, abiding love. ...more
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pre-pub
Heartbreaking doesn't begin to describe the emotional territory navigated in this memoir of the life, illness and death of a vibrant young mother stricken with metastatic colon cancer at the age of 37. The miracle of the title refers to the author's survival and good fortune against all odds, as a baby born blind in Vietnam in the late 1970s, a country impoverished and in disarray. Escape to America, topnotch medical attention, and an Ivy League education furthered her miraculous life trajectory ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of those books that I opened to read the book flap and never closed until the last page. A lesson on dying truthfully. Really although said too many times by me, no one should leave this book unread. It’s a manual on how to die gracefully and truthfully. I only wish I could be a part of Julie’s life. She would have been such an awesome friend.
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was an emotional roller coaster! I had to read this in bits and pieces and even then I had to stop! My heart is breaking and sobbing as I'm writing this. Beautiful soul and beautiful writing. Julie will be missed but what a tribute to her family and children. This book will stay with me for a long time. ...more
Tess Taylor
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction, 2019
4.5- If I didn't know better, I would've mistaken The Unwinding of the Miracle for well-crafted fiction. However, Julie Yip-Williams is a very real person whose inspiring life is documented in this raw and well-crafted autobiography. It is beautiful that Julie's family has this testament of her love for them and her influential life. ...more
Mary Blye Kramer
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the first part of this book the author is funny and interesting. Then beware, a large part of the book is emotionally exhausting but that’s cancer. Stay with her because you will not feel the full impact of the phenomenal ending unless you really read it all. In the end this author will take your breath away with her beauty and wisdom and courage and honesty.
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Julie Yip-Williams died in March 2018 of colon cancer. She was born in Tam-Ky, Vietnam, just as the war was ending, grew up in Monterey Park, California, and graduated from Williams College and Harvard Law School. At her death she was forty-two, and lived in Brooklyn with her husband, Josh, and their daughters, Mia and Isabelle.

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