by Susan Spencer-Wendel with Bret Witter
The author, a journalist in Florida and mother of three, was diagnosed
with ALS at 44 years old. Deciding that she had about a year of health,
more or less, left, she decided to live it with joy and pack it with as
much travel, family time, friends, and fun as possible. She takes her
Asperger’s son to swim with dolphins, has her 14-year-old daughter try
on wedding dresses at Kleinfeld’s (on the premise that she will not live
to see the real thing), finds her roots in Cyprus, tries to see the
northern lights in the Yukon, and vacations in the Bahamas. She also
writes a book, of course, tapping it out with her thumb on an iPhone.
is an extraordinary journal of positivity, adventure, hope, and love.
It’s absolutely tear-jerking in some places, and only a bitter
curmudgeon would criticize it. So here I go. First and foremost, this
is a family diary; it is a tribute to herself, for her children. I
don’t question in the least the need for this tribute for her family,
but I’m not sure that there’s a wider purpose here beyond family
closure, as there was with the similar The Last Lecture.
And I certainly could have been content for her family euphemism for
defecation, “stink pickle,” to stay in the family. There’s also a
disjointed chronology which means some parts get told twice; surely her
co-writer could have tightened this up? Finally, this may be needlessly
picky, but Spencer-Wendel seems incredibly naïve about a lot of things,
which distracts from the book’s main point. How can an award-winning
journalist in her forties, a mother of three with a master’s degree, not
have ever even heard of ALS or Asperger’s, much less Cyprus’ Green
Line? I found that very odd. Okay, heartless criticism over.
Spencer-Wendel’s an undeniably brave woman, and her Buddhist-like wisdom
(remove needless want, and you remove pain; don’t fear merely possible
negative repercussions, but embrace adventure) is inspiring; I’m glad
for her that she got a movie and book deal for her family’s security,
even if I find the book a bit too personal to be truly affecting.