The Unwinding of the Miracle

A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After
Length: 11 hrs and 14 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (701 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best seller • 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.

"An exquisitely moving portrait of the daily stuff of life." (The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice)

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book ReviewTime Real SimpleGood Housekeeping

That Julie Yip-Williams survived infancy was a miracle. Born blind in Vietnam, she narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, only to flee with her family the political upheaval of her country in the late 1970s. Loaded into a rickety boat with 300 other refugees, Julie made it to Hong Kong and, ultimately, America, where a surgeon at UCLA gave her partial sight. She would go on to become a Harvard-educated lawyer, with a husband, a family, and a life she had once assumed would be impossible. Then, at age 37, with two little girls at home, Julie was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.

The Unwinding of the Miracle is the story of a vigorous life refracted through the prism of imminent death. When she was first diagnosed, Julie Yip-Williams sought clarity and guidance through the experience and, finding none, began to write her way through it - a chronicle that grew beyond her imagining. Motherhood, marriage, the immigrant experience, ambition, love, wanderlust, tennis, fortune-tellers, grief, reincarnation, jealousy, comfort, pain, the marvel of the body in full rebellion - this audiobook is as sprawling and majestic as the life it records. It is inspiring and instructive, delightful and shattering. It is an audiobook of indelible moments, seared deep - an incomparable guide to living vividly by facing hard truths consciously.

With humor, bracing honesty, and the cleansing power of well-deployed anger, Julie Yip-Williams set the stage for her lasting legacy and one final miracle: the story of her life.

Praise for The Unwinding of the Miracle

"Everything worth understanding and holding on to is in this book.... A miracle indeed." (Kelly Corrigan, New York Times best-selling author)

"A beautifully written, moving, and compassionate chronicle that deserves to be read and absorbed widely." (Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies)

©2019 Julie Yip-Williams (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Eloquent, gutting and at times disarmingly funny... Yip-Williams writes with such vibrancy and electricity even as she is dying.... This memoir is so many things - a triumphant tale of a blind immigrant, a remarkable philosophical treatise and a call to arms to pay attention to the limited time we have on this earth. But at its core, it’s an exquisitely moving portrait of the daily stuff of life: family secrets and family ties, marriage and its limitlessness and limitations, wild and unbounded parental love and, ultimately, the graceful recognition of what we can’t - and can - control.” (The New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice) 

“Everything worth understanding and holding on to is in this book.... A miracle indeed.” (Kelly Corrigan, New York Times best-selling author of The Middle Place and Tell Me More

“A beautifully written, moving, and compassionate chronicle that deserves to be read and absorbed widely.” (Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies)

“Julie Yip-Williams lived a life defined by effort and incredible self-reliance. But in this searing memoir of increasing vulnerability, she dismantles and then reconstructs what it means to be triumphant. Her writing examines not only her disability and illness - and their cultural, medical, and narrative constructs - but love, authenticity, hope, egotism, even rage. I didn’t know Julie, but in these pages, I grew to love her.” (Lucy Kalanithi)

What listeners say about The Unwinding of the Miracle

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time

I’ve been obsessed with books written by people who are dying. As I age and start dealing with some of the challenges of aging, I am fearful of what’s next. I’ve lost several friends and family in the past year to cancer and it’s brought that reality right to the forefront.

Julie’s book is painful and as I finished, I was ugly crying in the car on my way home from work. But it was worth every second.

What she gives us is the ugly and accurate account of someone dying with a young family. You feel her gratitude for living a full life but also live through the hard, ugly moments of desperation of a dreadful initial diagnosis and repeated disappointments of incremental bad test results.

But what she has given me is a gift that I will be forever grateful for. It’s the gift of living and reminding myself that time is not guaranteed and that we must use our time doing what we love.

We’re so afraid of dying and yet we aren’t living. We are fearful and angry and sad and depressed these days. I may not be inviting death with open arms but I will be grateful for every day and I will live my best life.

Thank you Julie for this amazing gift. Everyone should read this.

21 people found this helpful

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Death is mandatory. Living is optional

Julie couldn't be more different than I on the exterior. We are however very similar on life philosophy on many aspects of the miracle that is life. Because of that, this book touched me profoundly. I look forward to my adventures in Antarctica. I look forward to spending daily walks with my dogs. In other words, I am more cognizant that death is mandatory, life is optional.

Read this book. Be present every day. Travel. Be brave. Seek out adventures. Appreciate the loved ones in your life.

16 people found this helpful

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Lieschdl@aol.com

I am just 1 month shy of my 85 birthday The enormity & philosophical impact this story has had on me can not be put into simple words. My health is a blessing and my body has served me well over these many years but Julie’s words certainly were an inspiration to this geriatric listener as i walk along the
Hudson River every day.

Listening to Julies actual voice is a special gift to the listeners. Thank you all for the exemplary presentation.

8 people found this helpful

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Marvelous

I encourage everyone living and dying, as we all are, to read this book. Even better listen. Take it in. Feel the tears. Contemplate the wisdom. I feel so thankful.

6 people found this helpful

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powerful

Julie Yip Williams told an extraordinary story of struggle, perseverance, defeat and transcendance. it will make you laugh, cry and reflect.

3 people found this helpful

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A true gift!

Julie Yip-Williams memoir is a true gift to those lucky enough to have good health and to those dealing with life limiting illnesses. I am grateful for what she has shared here and am even more determined to shake things up and pay attention to the things that are most important in my life.
Her honest account of her and her family’s journey through her illness is a testament to her strength and dedication to her husband and child. Thank you to Julie and her family for sharing the intimate details of this inspiring story.

2 people found this helpful

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Very private memoir and a reflection on life.

Great memoir ❤️ It bounced around and was a little repetitive, but still wonderful. I can't imagine how hard this was for her to write and for her family to read. God Bless her daughters❣️

2 people found this helpful

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So sad but heart warming

Very sad and emotional. Inspiring at the same time. Glad there was an epilogue. thank you Josh for letting us know how her last days were. heartwarming sediments. God bless you and your girls.

2 people found this helpful

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Metastatic Cancer Warrior...proceed with caution

If you are fighting cancer and want to remain positive about survival...this book might depress you. If you have accepted your fate as death approaching...than it might help you to go through the mental process of death with someone else. I did not enjoy this book at all. The voice was depressingly soft and sad. However the story was raw and truthful, but I am a person of strong christian faith and the book depressed my optimism and laughter. Not a book for cancer surviviors..in my opionion.

12 people found this helpful

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Beautiful and heartbreaking

The narration was perfect The author depicts hope, anger, love and insights into living with cancer and living life in the face of our own mortality Beautifully done Highly recommended

3 people found this helpful