Thursday, February 26, 2009

Irreplaceable, a Novel by Stephen Lovely

Have you signed the organ donor form on the back of your license? I couldn't even tell you if I have or not. I've thought about it many times, but shy away from taking that step when I envision scalpels cutting into my comatose body while my family cries at my bedside. After I write this review, I'm going to go make sure I signed the form because I believe that my useless organs should go to help someone who needs them. But thinking about such a scenario is so hard that I've most likely avoided committing to it until now.

Reading Irreplaceable has spurred me to act. Stephen Lovely's novel, Irreplaceable, takes the reader deep into the aftermath of organ donation. The novel opens with a young woman enjoying a vigorous bike ride, looking forward to getting home to her husband. She never makes it home as she is run over by an SUV at the crest of a hill. Although she was only in the book for a few pages, her vitality as she pumps the pedals of the bike remained with me until the last page.

The rest of the novel follows the lives of everyone the accident touched: Isabel's husband, her mother, but also the family of the woman who received Isabel's heart. Nothing is black and white in Irreplaceable. The grief of Isabel's relatives is counter-balanced by the desperation of Janet's death-sentence if she did not receive that heart.

The situation is so tragic that it is sometimes difficult to keep on reading Irreplaceable. This is a book that really made me think and appreciate my good health. I'm very glad I read it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kelly Corrigan, Great Writer, Inspirational Speaker

Tonight I attended an incredibly inspirational event with Kelly Corrigan, author of the Middle Place. I read and reviewed the Middle Place a year ago, before it was so popular, before it was on the NY Times non-fiction bestseller list. I loved the Middle Place. Although the topic sounds grim, a memoir where both the author and her father are battling cancer, the book is actually full of hope and life.

Kelly Corrigan in person is just like she writes. Honest, down to earth, funny and incredibly likeable. She read two chapters from the Middle Place and it made me want to run home and read it all over again. Although I remembered how moved I was by it, I had forgotten how incredibly well written I found it, and how amazing Corrigan is at painting the details.

What I most enjoyed about tonight was hearing about Corrigan's process and how the Middle Place came to be. When she was diagnosed, she started writing essays about her cancer. She shared them online at Circus of Cancer and was encouraged by the response. Her sister in law really pushed her to turn them into a book. Corrigan never thought it would be published, and certainly never imagined that it would reach the NY Times Bestseller list.

I walked up to her after her speech and asked her how she is able to write so honestly, how is she able to put aside her fear of offending people. She answered that the only reason she was able to do it for the first book was that she never thought it would be published and that she's now really struggling with that fear with her second book. She added, "that's why I don't feel like a real writer."

I was amazed that someone who writes so incredibly beautifully, someone whose book has become so popular on its own merit, from word of mouth, can still so clearly be plagued with self-doubt. Her honesty made made me realize that success is within all our grasps, and that even when we're at the top of our game, we'll still feel very vulnerable.

The trick is to start writing, and keep writing. Who knows where it could lead?