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21 Miles: Swimming in Search of the Meaning of Motherhood

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  202 ratings  ·  25 reviews
'This book will help so many people' Positive Fertility

An Outdoor Swimming Society Book of the Year 2018

After a decade of trying and failing to become a mother, Jessica Hepburn knew it was time to do something different. So she decided to swim twenty-one miles across the English Channel – no easy feat, especially for someone who couldn't swim very well. As the punishing tr
...more
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published May 3rd 2018 by Unbound
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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Valentina
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I learned that most people need something else in their life as well. Motherhood can make you happy, but it's rarely enough." ...more
Helen
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, just wow! This book really moved me. Definitely going to look out for her other book now 😁
Stephanie Byrne
Sep 22, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really vulnerable memoir, Hepburn talks you through her life post unsuccessful IVF and her search for meaning in her life. She's really likeable, coming across very honest and full of heart.

I'd like to have lunch with her. I also really enjoyed her passion for eating (which is much more specific than being passionate about just food). My kind of girl.

I enjoyed learning more about the process to prepare for swimming the English Channel although funnily enough, it wasn't the main feature of the
...more
Elissa
Jul 31, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book while reflecting upon the sad ending of my own IVF journey, trying to find a way forward, has been like eating my own favorite meal, which I'm sure would be some salty creamy pasta dish with roasted vegetables on the side, after days of hunger and a good round of vigorous exercise. (Definitely not swimming to France though- maybe a long walk around the neighborhood instead!) I so enjoyed the perspective, the writing style, and the story. I laughed and cried. A five-star read. ...more
Joanna Norland
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Making Waves Once Again!!

“I may never be able to say that I was the 4 million and 91st woman to give birth to an IVF baby, but I will always be able to say that I was the 491st woman to swim the English Channel.”

In 2014, Jessica Hepburn made waves in the assisted fertility world with her biting, compulsive account of her hurdles and heartbreaks, trying to conceive through IVF (eleven cycles, no less).

Now, with 21 Miles, she’s making waves again. Literally

Hepburn decided that if she couldn’t bec
...more
Rosalyn
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book came crashing out of the waves of my own grief like a tide of joy. I’ve never met Jessica Hepburn, but I was cheering her on all the way and feel so proud of her - not just for her amazing swimming feat, but due to her writing such a warm and thoughtful book from her own deepest hurt.
Hannah
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
About the book: Unable to have a baby after 11 IVF attempts, Jessica set her sights on swimming across the English Channel. Some thoughts:

🏊🏻‍♀️I learnt a lot about swimming across the Channel! In keeping with Captain Webb’s successful first attempt, no wetsuits! The first woman to swim across the Channel was 19-year-old Getrude Ederle.
🏊🏻‍♀️You need to put on weight to keep warm while swimming under 16 degrees. So Jessica invited and interviewed inspiring women who are mothers or childless in he
...more
Madeleine VB
I really wanted to enjoy this more than I did. I found the subject interesting: woman has 11 failed rounds of IVF, decides to swim the Channel, and invites various women to meet with her and eat to help her gain weight for her swim, while answering questions about motherhood and their accomplishments. I enjoyed the sections where she interviews other women, I liked hearing their perspectives. I also liked hearing about her training for the swim, as it's a totally unknown world to me. However, I ...more
Deborah Siddoway
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A relatively easy to read book in a memoir style. At times, I found the narrative style a little too jerky, and the author vacillated between giving us too much information, while withholding herself back at other times. I would have preferred a little more heart in the writing style at times, more description of just where she found the strength to get herself across the Channel, because this is an awesome achievement, particularly for a woman with very little open water swimming experience. Th ...more
Cat
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'm a bit bereft this is over and it has given me so much literal food for thought that I feel like I need a couple of days to take it in and process. It is non-fiction, about a 40-something Londoner who after 11 rounds of IVF decides to give up on her dream of being a mother, and who instead decides to swim the channel. During the year long training period, she invites interesting, successful and sometimes formidable women to eat with her in her efforts to gain weight, and interviews them on th ...more
Lizzie Lowrie
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Jessica's story is one of resilience and searching and it's beautifully put together. She maintains a tension throughout the build up to her swim that just keeps you reading. She weaves other stories in between hers in such a natural way. I appreciated the vulnerability and sensitivity in both sharing her story and writing for women who carry with them a sadness they don't know what to do with. Jessica really is an incredibly inspiring woman and it's a privilege to be invited into her story thro ...more
Dee
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book gobbled down in 3 lovely binges - I couldn't put it down. Regardless of whether you care a jot about either swimming the channel or IVF you will love this. Achingly honest, moving, profound but also very funny. I cried, I got goosebumps. Jessica Hepburn is an excellent writer and she has a great story to tell. The interviews with the famous women were fascinating. So joyful also to read a woman who really loves food write about eating. Read it - you won't regret it. ...more
Cara
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I found this book excellent, balanced and thought-provoking. Jessica is honest, funny and inspiring - relevant for those experiencing fertility struggles and interesting/eye-opening for others. It also has the parallel story of her swimming training interspersed so has a good mix. It's not often I come across a book I can't put down, I thoroughly recommend. ...more
Victoria Wray
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
An inspiring story which moved me to tears. I increased my training sessions in the pool after reading this, although quickly came to the realisation that I'll never be able to complete the channel swim which is such an outstanding accomplishment. I loved the personal memoirs, however felt that the meet and eat extracts didn't always fit with the narrative seamlessly. ...more
ADEL HAMBALGO
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, uplifting and thought provoking

This book has made me smile, cry and laugh. It’s such a thought provoking read and really makes you think about the big questions in life. Hats off to this writer for being so determined and courageous both for swimming the channel but also for opening up to others about her heartbreak and raising awareness of infertility.
Allison
Jul 09, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book found me in the right moment. Unsure if I want children, worried I may be unhappy with that decision later in life. I’m not sure I found my answer to whether or not to have children, but I found many other answers to questions I wasn’t even looking for. This book has made me want to really live my life and do the things I never believed I could really do. I highly recommend!
FlyingBulgarian Svetli H.
Dear Jessica

Thank you for writing this book.

I learned so much about IVF, swimming the channel, you (of course) and surprisingly myself.

Thank you again.
Elin
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Read in its entirety on Christmas Day - a really nice book about the joy of swimming, and eating, and motherhood
Elizabeth Poppy
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So inspiring. Completely changed my outlook on parenthood. Loved the structure of the book, loved Hepburn’s writing, loved everything. Also cried at the end!!
Hannah
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Book exploring what you do when you cant have a baby and decide to give up on treatment. Jessica gave up at 43 and decided to swim the channel instead!
Kristy G
Nov 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Very good. Other people’s stories are so helpful.
Margaret Grant
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Warm and moving. Very worthwhile.
Cath Swanson
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. Such an original idea- to weave in 'meet and eat' sessions with 21 mothers &non-mothers as a pre-cursor to fattening herself up and swimming the channel. What I really appreciated is that JH didn't tie up all the loose ends or spoon-feed the reader her own analysis of what the women were saying about their experience of motherhood or childlessness. It was a kind of understated book, always on the cusp of becoming that bit more reflective of herself and what made her tick. That ...more
Wendy Armstrong
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Readable and engaging; written in a direct and open, non-literary style. Enjoyable despite the fact that Hepburn is very fixated on the idea that you have to do something 'big' with your life if you don't have children, which some of the demographic for this book (AKA me) may struggle with. Spoiler: she doesn't discover the meaning of motherhood, nor much else really, from her interviewees. Her aim was to find out 'Does motherhood make you happy?', a question with surely the world's most changea ...more
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