Julie Yip-Williams, The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After (New York: Random House, 2019), 315pp.
Julie Yip-Williams lived an improbable life (1976–2018). Born blind in Vietnam just nine months after the fall of Saigon, her grandmother gave the order for her to be killed when she was eight weeks old. Her ethnic Chinese family fled Vietnam to the United States when she was three. Later came Harvard Law School and an improbable marriage. When she was thirty-seven, Yip-Williams was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic colon cancer. In this brutally candid memoir that she started right after her diagnosis, she writes her way through that experience.
Yip-Willams has a message for us: live while you are living. As a ruthless realist, she describes how in the course of her cancer she changed from a "belligerent warrior" who would win her "war" with the disease to a "contemplative philosopher" who distrusted the "rah-rah-rah nonsense" and the "cottage industry of denial" that exists among some sectors of the cancer community. She explores the full range of her deeply human emotions — fear, rage, depression, helplessness, futility, desperation, delusion, false optimism, and all the ways our culture "fears the unwinding of the miracle." This is strong medicine, but for Yip-Williams it was the pathway to acceptance, peace, and meaning "in a life over which I have little control."
For similar first-hand accounts of death and dying, see my reviews of Kate Bowler, Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved (2018); Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005); Simon Fitzmaurice, It's Not Yet Dark: A Memoir (2017); Atul Gawande, Being Mortal; Medicine and What Matters in the End (2014); and Randy Pausch, with Jeffrey Zaslow, The Last Lecture (2008), 206pp.
Dan Clendenin: firstname.lastname@example.org