"Am I crazy? I ask. "I've never felt like this before ..."
"You are crazy, he says calmly, "and you will be for a while. But that is normal when you lose a child." I stare at him, wild with fear over my own suicidal impulses.
"Were you like this?"
"Yes, on and off for a long time."
He must see the fear in my eyes.
"One thing I can promise you," he says, squeezing my hand, is that this feeling will come again, but it will never be as intense as it is now. Each time you go down, you go a little less deep."
You're going to need some tissues for this book, a memoir, but it is a great read. It focuses on Eleanor Vincent, who lost her daughter Maya in the early '90s due to a freak accident - Maya gets thrown off a horse, and hits her head - and how she and her other daughter, Meghan, cope with the aftermath. It's written simply but elegantly, and some parts will make you cry, while others will make you smile.
Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent - and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.
Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor's life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya's fate.
Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya's organs. Years later, she is able to hear Maya's heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as Eleanor's traumatic life as a child and young woman. In a story that has been called "heartbreaking and heart-healing," Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one's balance after unthinkable tragedy.
I was in the midst of reading this book on October 4th, when I came across a part in a chapter saying Maya's birthday: also October 4th. In a fiction book, one might not think anything about this, but my heart contracted then for the author, Eleanor, because she was no doubt missing Maya that day - as this book is a real story, with little or no embellishments, about her daughter's life and, ultimately, her death.
This book was originally published in 2004, but now is available in Kindle format, with an Afterword. The Afterword details events from 2005 through 2011, and I was glad to read about them, as they pertained to Meghan's life and also others who are mentioned in the story.
Eleanor Vincent has an MFA, and you could see this while reading the book: the writing flows very easily, yet she never loses sight of the purpose of the story - illustrating Maya's life and also giving a bit of Eleanor's own background. Eleanor had a hard childhood but this made her determined to be a good mother, and she and Maya had a very close relationship. We know what this book is about before even reading it, based on the synopsis, but it doesn't make it this any less difficult after Maya suffers from her debilitating fall; while reading this memoir, the reader will go through the emotions that Vincent herself goes through.
4 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.
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The contest will end on Wednesday, October 23rd, at 11:59pm EST, and the winners will be emailed on October 24th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner(s) will be chosen. Giveaway is open to all but U.S. residents will receive print copies of the book and non-U.S. residents (including Canada) will receive e-book copies.
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