As well as making sense of the extraordinary, O’Farrell’s expertise lies in finding significance in the ordinary, making connections and finding clarity where most might find fog ... O’Farrell hopscotches across the decades, offering us a series of hugely evocative vignettes that point to multiple lives and identities. Thus, we meet her as a daughter, a student, an office worker, a mother, a wife and a traveller. We are privy to various moods and mindsets: in love, heartbroken, lonely, restless, rebellious, scared, purposeful. I Am, I Am, I Am isn’t purely about peril, it’s about the life lived either side of it. These snapshots, shared in extreme closeup, reveal a thoughtful and determined writer who, despite frequent trauma, remains resilient and unbowed.
As its title suggests, its pounding pulse is ultimately life-affirming. It's an extraordinary book, a reminder that while life has its limits and can be unpredictable, we should push against limitations and not give in to fear ... I Am, I Am, I Am is filled with lessons the rest of us would be wise to heed. Mortal threats are more common than we think, her book demonstrates, but you can't let them stop you from experiencing life to the fullest.
This awareness — of time, luck, fate and 'the feeling of having pulled my head, one more time, out of the noose' — drives O’Farrell’s story. She reminds us that we all live a hairbreadth from death ... I Am I Am I Am is at its strongest when she describes the intensity of her love and sense of responsibility for her own three children, and her fear of unwittingly putting them in harm’s way ... If I have a quibble with this book, it’s that there are a few spots where O’Farrell’s wise and lyrical voice veers toward the didactic, including footnotes and journalistic asides that distract from the deep emotional resonance. In the end, this memoir is a mystical howl, a thrumming, piercing reminder of how very closely we all exist alongside what could have happened, but didn’t.