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Let me start by saying that I am neither capable nor even allowed to pass judgement on such a personal memoir, thus Until I Say Good-Bye presents quite a paradox for me. If I could have given my perspective without first entering a rating, I would certainly have done so. I admire Susan Spencer-Wendel for many characteristics - her ability to live with ALS unflinchingly, her humor, grace, acceptance, desire, and perseverance in writing the book. The author states, "First and foremost, I wrote the book for my family and friends to have, to jog their memories after I'm gone." In this capacity, she succeeds immensely. In the face of her rapid neuromuscular decline until she is left with only the ability to type with her right thumb on her iphone, she manages to write this book with the help of Bret Witter.
The paradox for me is that I think this book is most successful as a very personal memoir, for the author's children, family, and friends, but the publication of this book, along with a movie deal, will allow Spencer-Wendel and her family the ability to "Live with joy. And die with joy, too.” This is such an intensely personal story that while I can admire the author, I don't think I can ever really understand her circumstances along with those of her family. It does serve as a reminder of how lucky most of us are, something which we will most likely not be able to acknowledge so personally until we experience our own unlucky circumstances.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
Boy, do I feel bad giving somebody with ALS 3 stars, but, while this book had a quite a bit going for it, it did indeed have a few notable drawbacks.
First the drawbacks. It wanders and could've used somebody to draw in the threads tighter so it didn't feel like we were jumping from one epiphany/adventure/loving thought to another without proper segues.
Two: Sure, this is about Life, not Death, but the ALS is soooo sanitized, you'd think it was easy. I'm working on my second novel, and a character of mine has ALS, so all I know about it comes from research, and it is brutal. I certainly don't expect Susan to make her book all about her suffering (especially as this is something her children will be reading later), but perhaps she could've put in some more about how hard the illness is. Her children could only be that much prouder of her, and people with ALS (PALS), and their friends and families could use the inspiration she provided. She missed a chance there. Really, it comes off as easy. She travels. Easy. Carried on the beach. Easy. Eats all her favorite foods. Easy. She wants this/that/the other and her family says no? Well, she wants it, so they're gonna do it for her anyway.
It's only at the end where she needs help toileting, and that's only a blip on the radar without embarrassment. Communication is the one thing that is difficult. For a woman whose life was words, I expected more emotion I suppose. Then again, I'm just big into emotion, so make of it what you will.
The best part of this book is that this is a loving family, and an adopted woman fitting pieces together before she dies, saying yes to life as much as she can.
And Karen White, who BRUTALIZED "Daring Greatly," does an admirable job here.
This is a good, credit-worthy book, well worth the listen, just park some expectations by the door.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful