I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell

The very idea of a story in terms of near death experiences is incredibly interesting. There is so much to it. What do you consider to be a near death experience? How do they impact our lives? What brought us to a place where we even had a near death experience? There are just so many questions. Then O’Farrell does this beautiful job of making the answers to those questions obvious in a voice that I could listen to for hours. Well, she didn’t narrate the audiobook herself, but the voice in the way she writes. Her cadence and manner of writing was just mesmerizing for me.

The chapters don’t go in chronological order, and I’m not really sure how the order was chosen. Regardless, the first one sets the tone of the rest of the memoir. It let the reader know that near death, as far as O’Farrell was concerned, includes so many things and therefore scared the hell out of me.

The thing about it is that these are all fairly normal experiences. None of the experiences mentioned are outside of the realm of possibility for any woman to encounter. A single hesitation by a bystander or decision by a predator or missed observation of her own in each situation could have ended her life. Seventeen brushes with death and they are all just life as we know it. That’s the scary and astonishing part that makes this a must read for women. It’d be great for men who simply want to understand the female obsession with safety.

Of course, not all women are obsessed with safety and the rape schedule is different for everyone based on where they grew up, but compared to the existence of most of the men I’ve talked to, women live on high alert. I’ve never talked to a man about the rape schedule who didn’t gasp at the idea of having to know exactly where his drink has been at all times. This book makes it blatantly clear just how close we can come to death on even an ordinary day, walking to work.

There are men who are acutely aware of the feeling of it, but who live by an entirely different set of rules than those we deal with. The point remains. It’s not about whether only one in fifty M&Ms is poisoned, it’s can you tell which one is the poisoned one among them before putting it in your mouth?

The book itself is well written and discusses those parts of life and others that we typically don’t talk about. These topics add to why I find it an essential read for women and others who strive to understand the female experience. There is so much here about what it’s like to live and all the close calls we find. It’s also written in a way that makes for the perfect book club book as each chapter has a different experience that could be discussed and related to by either women who look to each other for empathy or men who are trying not to hurt us anymore. Not every encounter is specifically tied to a bad interaction with a man, but the rest I would think are even more relatable as they could happen to anyone.

Seventeen seems like a high number until you begin the book and think about how close each event could have come to ending in death and then think back on your own life. I guess I’ve brushed with death more than I thought I had. A part of me wants to be more careful, a part of me wants to ignore the very idea. I loved every minute of this audiobook and definitely plan on rereading it one day.

Add it to your Goodreads or Litsy TBR.

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