Book Review: Where There is Breath, There is Life: A memoir
Where There is Breath, There is Life: A memoir by Susan M. Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Davis writes as if words are the only things in this world which grants her life, and she wants to fiercely share that life with the rest of us. But it’s her ability to be honest and yet compassionate, that makes this book both deeply inspiring and moving. If there is such a thing as a ‘spiritual journey’, this is it.
Where There is Breath, There is Life is a complex contemporary memoir written by a mature and talented writer. It’s a heartrending account of both tribulations and open reflections as Davis chronicles the slow road to recovery of a woman who has unexpectedly suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm, and the commitment she makes to her, every day, to love and cherish her as she must now relearn how to eat, speak, count, walk, and remember. Through it all, Davis is able to balance the demands of caregiving, work, home, and her own struggles, making the book an intimate and supplemental exploration of how illness affects the lives of not only the one who is suffering, but also the lives of family, friends, and their custodians. And it is through this ordeal that Davis is forced to confront exactly who she is, what she wants, and what she is willing to endure to have it.
From the very moment Davis first reached out to me and asked me to review her book, I knew that I was going to say yes. There is just something deeply personal about reading someone’s memoir that I generally find cathartic, especially the ones that stay with me long after the final words appear. The gifts I have received from doing so have been many and the impact Davis has had on me will surely be a lasting one. Because it is only the rarest of souls that somehow manages to come into the world and show us all what it really means to love, and love deeply, honestly, unconditionally, and wholeheartedly, without judgment. There is no weakness in this. For it takes great strength and courage to see, feel, experience and listen with the heart. A heart that is all too often ridiculed and ignored.
But there is no recipe for dealing with trauma. Trauma creates so much dysfunction in the midst of an individual’s life, which Davis outlines well in the book, that at times it can feel like you’re living in someone else's house, trying to find the things you need, and of course, can’t locate. And these depths of loneliness can be horrific.
However, I’m someone who firmly believes that truth is the one essential quality every piece of great writing has in common. Truth always seeks expression. But, good writing also involves seeing people suffer and trying to find some meaning therein. In other words, for me, a writer is someone who frames for people what matters most in the world, and then attempts to explain why before passing it along. And while writing is not life, I think that sometimes it can be the only way back to life.
This is truly a powerful story. One I think will cause you to ask yourself many questions about who you are as a person. It will trigger all sorts of emotions, perhaps, anger, sadness, fear, and pain but I think it will also ignite emotions that are far deeper than all of these. And if you allow your heart to open to the greater message I found in this book, I think that you too will find it just as awe inspiring, leaving you with a sense of peace and of hope. And more importantly, with something real.