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Publisher's Summary

As selected for the Zoe Ball Bookclub, a Book of the Year in The Sunday Times, The Times, Guardian, Irish Times, Observer, Red and The Telegraph.

I Am, I Am, I Am is a memoir with a difference - the enthralling story of an extraordinary woman's life in near-death experiences. Insightful, inspirational, a story you finish newly conscious of life's fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.

A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times best-selling author Maggie O'Farrell. It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?  

I Am, I Am, I Am will speak to readers who loved Cheryl Strayed's Wild or Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers.

©2017 Maggie O'Farrell (P)2017 Headline Publishing Group Ltd

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars

Seldom do I want to read a book twice

What a beautifully written book - words crafted together so well and a spectacular vocabulary. Loved the pace and the tone - I am a new huge fan

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  • Rachel Redford
  • 08-30-17

'where the axe may fall'

O'Farrell’s like-no-other memoir leaves you in awe of both her frightening experiences and her brilliant writing. O'Farrell suffers from various neurological problems following a childhood illness, but as a teenager she jumps into deep water as a dare and nearly drowns because, as she well knew, she could not tell up from down. In South America a machete is held to her throat and all her travel money stolen because she and her boyfriend are in a district where travellers are warned there are armed robbers. Why does she take a 9-week old baby already raging from severe reflux (which she refused to tell the health visitor about) to rural Italy where she's left alone in a car to be rocked by thieves in their attempt to get in? She takes her 7 year-old son who can't swim on her back off the coast of Zanzibar to a post a tourist had told her was easy to reach. She finds herself in deep water and her weak arms unable to hold him. Many of these brushes with death - and there are more - seem the result of a pathological recklessness, a crazed addiction to risk, and because of this, although the experiences are terrifying, her culpability reduces your sympathy.

That is, until the later chapters when she explains the 'hinge' on which her whole life swings: as an 8-year-old she is the little girl dying from encephalitis. But she survives: she learns to walk again and do all the things which the doctors told her parents she never would. She was ALIVE and she would LIVE - the rest of her life was a massive defiant kick in the teeth for Proud Death of John Donne's poem. All the risk-taking falls into place and O'Farrell becomes truly admirable. I Am I Am I Am is understandable.

The later chapters also relate without self-pity her fearful births history - a near fatal haemorrhage following a mismanaged Caesarian and subsequent miscarriages. Also without self-pity is her detailing of daily life with her 8-year daughter who suffers from a rare immune deficiency which means that from birth she scratched her glue-dry skin to shreds and if she even goes anywhere near nuts or anywhere near where someone may have eaten nuts, she can and does fall into possibly fatal anaphylactic shock. O'Farrell's life involves heart-breaking precautions needed to keep her daughter safe for one more day. 'She IS She IS'. It tears the heart to ribbons just listening.

O'Farrell must be pleased with Daisy Donovan's beautiful narration which adds another vein to this visceral memoir. Audible is offering a free download of a to-minute interview with O'Farrell which is mainly her talking about her experiences behind her latest novel This Must Be The Place (reviewed here by me on 26th July 2016) and also provides insights into her working methods.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • The Reluctant Hermit
  • 09-25-17

Can't believe this won the Costa

I wouldn't wish any of these events on anyone but I found the book was just several short stories that failed to hold my interest. Disappointed as it got rave reviews on the radio

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  • Nicholas
  • 09-04-17

Boring

I listened to hours of this book and could take no more. Ideal for the insomniac.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Nicola Williams
  • 10-13-18

The best autobiography I’ve read and so beautifully written.

It is very true when they say “someone else is having a much harder time than you” and they are absolutely right!
Having several near misses in life and so have my family through out the years, I wasn’t sure if I could emotionally manage this book due to having PTSD.
I am so glad I listened to this incredibly written book through Audible.

I do believe in life there are born survivors, people who can think fast on their feet and no matter what life suddenly deals, they can manage incredible adversity.

I think this lady and her family earn an incredible degree of respect, specially her children. I really really hope that life will improve for them all.

What is the biggest beacon within this incredible story is inner strength, intellegence, love, hope, respect, never giving up and still stepping forward through good times and times of sheer and utter hell!

I read this book due to it being so highly accredited as I never read books of this nature due to my own difficulties and struggling with PTSD and combat PTSD, but I now hold this book to my chest like a shield.

I think this would be an excellent book for senior school children to read, alongside Dickens and Shakespeare, as a modern day book of adversity and sheer strength and love.



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  • La Maison
  • 10-10-18

Amazing account of Maggie's life

All I can say is what a remarkable woman Maggie is and am amazing writer

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  • EEL
  • 09-03-18

Frightening, shocking and ultimately moving

The book is a memoir, told non-chronologically through various near-death experiences that the author has had throughout her life. The opening story is particularly chilling and the collection as a whole, organized by chapter titles based on the part of the body affected, delights in emphasising the fragile serendipity of life, the proximity of death, and the sheer joy in evading it that can make even the very difficult life that is outlined in the final chapter worth living. And there are moments of humour too.

Having the book read by the author gives the memoir incontrovertible authenticity of voice and O'Farrell is a good reader. Highly recommended.

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  • Artemis
  • 07-28-18

Exhausting

It must be ruddy exhausting being Maggie O'Farrell. From what I've learned of her in this book she is one of those people for whom normal expectations and limits are like barbed wire fencing them in. Alpha people: people who do things their own way, come what may. People who have been everywhere and seen everything by the time they are 40. People who want the best, the most exciting, the worst, the most extreme — anything but the mundane. The people who, even though they know they can't use one arm properly and have nearly drowned previously, decide to swim out to a floating platform off a beach while carrying their small child and don't, when they realise they're out of their depth, stop and turn back. I think it was that particular close-shave that made me step back and look at this book, and the author, differently.

I began thinking about issues of recklessness and privilege and self-dramatisation and the relentless me, me, me of it all. I know it's an autobiography but even so...

The really heart-breaking stuff is at the end in O'Farrell's account not of her own but of her daughter's suffering. It is horrifying, thought-provoking and something one would wish for no child or parent. As I closed the book and put it down I wondered whether it is O'Farrell's attempt to deal with the odds that are stacked against her daughter. In seeking to make her own already high-coloured and dramatic life seem even more dramatic and dangerous than it has been is she seeking to reassure herself that her daughter can survive in an infinitely more risky world than even the one O'Farrell inhabits, one where every nut and egg is a potential killer?

I see from the rave reviews that many people have enjoyed this book for what it seems to be. I am a poor swimmer, like O'Farrell. I seem to have been dragged down by the book's undercurrents.

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  • Mrs. L. Macleod
  • 07-19-18

Extraordinary

Breathtaking. Deeply moving and engrossing story of the fragility of life. Wonderfully and movingly read.

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  • Alison Wood
  • 06-06-18

Heatrbreaking

This is a number of real life encounters with near death or danger beautifully written by one of my favourite writers Maggie O’Farrell. Captivating and expertly narrated by Daisy Donovan.

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  • Russty62
  • 02-08-18

I am, I am, I am.

Omg sorry I was loosening it, far to much to say.
Lost interest quarter of the way through, just did not hold me.

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  • Cassandra
  • 11-20-17

Beautifully written so moving

If you read only one book in your life, read this one. So relatable. So poetic. So affirming. Tears still in my eyes.

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  • Mrs. A.M. Andrew
  • 09-04-17

Captivating

This memoir is beautifully written and read. It is a gripping account of life and near death on too many occasions for one life.