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Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir Paperback – September 15, 2015

4.8 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Fogelberg, a poet, structures her saga well, writing in alternating chapters about growing up with her 'monster,' and arriving in the United States, where her condition is diagnosed and she has corrective open-heart surgery. Beautiful Affliction is an unusual, riveting medical drama crafted with deep emotion and exquisite detail.”


“In her breathtaking memoir, Beautiful Affliction, Lene Fogelberg elegantly unites the savagery and raw beauty of the natural world with the wisdom and poignant insight of a young wife and mother for whom each moment, whether or not she realizes it, may be her last. Exquisite imagery and poetic prose pulse through this powerful, emotionally gripping story. With Beautiful Affliction, Lene Fogelberg gives us a gorgeously written story to savor and share, while adding her shimmering, deeply intelligent voice to the literary pantheon.”

—Terri Giuliano Long, author of USA Today bestseller In Leah's Wake

“Lene Fogelberg’s memoir of living with an undiagnosed malfunctioning heart since childhood is a testament to the power of love. She allows us, the lucky reader, access to her innermost fears and guilts, offering up her story with such beautiful prose that one is enticed to linger over each word.”

—Rossandra White, award-winning author of Loveyoubye

“Gripping, powerful, touching, beautiful. A memoir about a woman who fights to remain alive because of her daughters and her husband. A story everyone can relate to and will want to read to the inspiring end.”

—Mette Ivie Harrison, author of Ironmom and New York Times Notable Book, The Bishop's Wife

“Brilliantly paced, weaving glimpses of the author's past into an ever-tightening noose that engulfs Lene and her young family in adulthood, this memoir left me as breathless as if I'd read a thriller about an unstoppable killer circling its victim. Beautiful Affliction grips the reader and won’t let go until the very last page.”

—Rita M. Gardner, author of the award-winning memoir The Coconut Latitudes

Beautiful Affliction is an important and beautiful book about the ways in which our health impacts our lives, and the courage, strength, and healing that can result with persistence. A wonderfully honest and sincere memoir.”

—Laura Pritchett, author of Stars Go Blue and winner of the PEN USA Award

“Heart-rending and suspense-filled, Fogelberg’s Beautiful Affliction is a graceful meditation on love, marriage, motherhood, and the quotidian precious moments that make a life with young children. Fogelberg’s miraculous story is a gift to readers, both for its exquisite prose and for its humble reminder: Life is short; love deeply.”

—Laura Nicole Diamond, author of Shelter Us

“Lene Fogelberg’s story is breathtaking in all the right ways―delicately and skillfully told―and a powerful reminder that life is fragile and can only be lived one breath at a time.”

—Carol Lynn Pearson, bestselling author, poet, and playwright

“Lene Fogelberg's memoir will have even the most doubtful believing in miracles. Honest, unapologetic, inspiring, Beautiful Affliction is ultimately a testament to the sustaining power of love.”

—Ashley Warner, author of the award-winning memoir The Year After

Beautiful Affliction is a deeply moving and important memoir about a young woman fighting for her life against all odds. It’s a suspenseful page-turner and also the work of a poet. Fogelberg's physical heart is shutting down, even as her emotional heart is filled to bursting with love―for her husband and two little girls, for her whole world that may vanish in an instant. Her breathtaking odyssey will remind the reader of the beauty, fragility, and ephemerality of life. I absolutely love this book. It was an inspiration to read, and it will stay with me for a long time.”

—Alice Eve Cohen, award-winning author of The Year My Mother Came Back and What I Thought I Knew

Beautiful Affliction is a singular story told with honesty and grace. Drawn into an existence where the next breath isn’t promised, you wonder if your resilience could match Fogelberg’s: Could you chase a riddle halfway around the world, and ultimately, into your own heart? As we root for Fogelberg, we root for ourselves.”

—Tré Miller Rodríguez, author of Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir

“Lene Fogelberg's inspiring memoir of life with a literal broken heart teaches us to recognize beauty amidst our own pain and suffering. Having also experienced complicated heart issues and a lifetime of surgeries I found myself reliving my own sacred experience.”

—Paul Cardall, #1 Billboard Pianist & Steinway Artist

“In Beautiful Affliction Lene Fogelberg takes us on a heartwrenching roller coaster ride as we follow her journey into marriage, motherhood, and across the world with the shadow of death as a constant companion. A poignant and poetic testament to love and the will to live, it reminds us to listen to the whispers of our hearts and to never, ever give up on what we desire the most.”

—Lone Mørch, author of Seeing Red: A Woman's Quest for Truth, Power and the Sacred

“Fogelberg has crafted a literary and beautifully compelling story, which is much more than a medical mystery. It is a heartfelt and touching story about a mother who loves her husband and children and struggles with the thought of leaving them behind. Her efforts to give them a sense of her love and how she wants that love to be remembered is what makes this book a magnificent memoir that I will be thinking about for a long time.”

—Steven L. Peck, author of The Scholar of Moab and A Short Stay in Hell

“Fogelberg’s poetic sensibility shines… Vivid, heartfelt, and carefully crafted, this memoir will resonate with readers. Beautiful Affliction is more than an illness narrative; its meditations on mortality will appeal to all who love the fragile and impermanent.”

—Lucy Bryan, Rain Taxi Review of Books

About the Author

Lene Fogelberg is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, an award-winning poet and double open-heart surgery survivor. Born in Sweden, she currently lives with her family in Malaysia, where she is working on a novel that takes place in Asia. Learn more at www.lenefogelberg.com.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: She Writes Press (September 15, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1631529854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1631529856
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #487,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This review originally appeared on www.Blogcritics.org (The reviewer received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review).

In "Beautiful Affliction: A Memoir", Lene Fogelberg shares the true story of growing up with a life-threatening, congenital heart condition that goes undiagnosed, and worse, untreated. Yet, she knows something is gravely wrong with her. She can’t sustain normal physical activities of others her age. In addition, she lives with a fearful question burning inside of her that clouds her every thought: will she die young?

Surrounded by nature’s bounty in her native Sweden, Lene Fogelberg has made a beautiful life for herself. With the man of her dreams and two enchanting girls, she does her best to make it through the trials of parenting, household chores, work and education. But she’s at a disadvantage those around her can’t see and don’t believe.

The story is told in chapters alternating between the past and present. Readers visit the author’s childhood near the sea, her romance with a boy named Anders who becomes her husband, and her daily struggles to move, to breathe, and to keep from fainting. It is a constant battle that grows dangerously more so after taxing pregnancies and the births of her two daughters.

Her often debilitating condition shapes her personality, her future, and that of her family. Despite her husband’s unwavering support and belief, her faith in herself is challenged by the constant dismissals of Swedish health officials and the skepticism of those around her. Forced to choose between the reality she feels inside her body and the misguided opinions of others, she questions her sanity while striving for a semblance of normalcy in the lives of her children.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the most moving memoirs I have read; also one of the most remarkable, both in topic and writing style. Lene Fogelberg is a poetic, honest writer with a strong voice to match her strong spirit. It is frightening how neglected her medical care was in Sweden; almost unbelievable that she could go all the way into adulthood and through pregnancy without a proper assessment of her heart murmur. Clearly if circumstances hadn’t sent her husband and their family to the US, Lene would not have survived to write so eloquently about her long and emotionally terrifying journey, through the medical system in America, through double open heart surgery, and out the other side. It is a love story. It is a story of a courageous family; a story that probably would not have had the happy ending it did without Lene’s husband, Anders, who never failed to believe her when no one else seemed to, and supported her through multiple grueling decisions and procedures while caring for their daughters. Not easy in a strange country, where everyone speaks not ony in medical lingo but in a foreign tongue.

Lene’s skill at showing, not telling, was the golden reason this memoir stands head and heart above most others for me. For example: I have heard many descriptions of the experience of being injected with contrast dye before undergoing a CAT scan, both from radiologists and from patients. Lene’s is by far the most evocative and the one that I am sure is closest to the truth. The difference between her experience and the experience of other patients in a similar situation is simply that Lene captures it in words.

"At first I feel nothing. Then it comes. The rushing, the heat, in all my blood vessels, large, small, arteries, veins, rushing, rushing, a waterfall in my body.
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Format: Paperback
We know, of course, that Lene Fogelberg pulls through. That’s not the point.

The point is that in her memoir Beautiful Affliction, we journey with her through the nearly constant, terrifying, painful symptoms that follow her from her native Sweden to the United States, where she ultimately discovers she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease.

With exceptional detail, Fogelberg brings readers into her head as she struggles to breathe, to raise her two daughters without letting them know she is sick, and to navigate her homeland’s healthcare system that takes too long to figure out what’s wrong.

I’m a fan of the flashbacks she uses to show how far back she had to deal with her condition. As early as the first chapter we are seeing the world—and the doctor’s office—through her eyes as a young girl: “I know what that is, it’s a stethoscope, my mom told me earlier.” Back and forth from the present to the past, we also learn about her relationship as she tries to acclimate to Philadelphia (where her incredibly supportive husband, Anders, has been transferred for work) while homesick and convinced—for a long time without a diagnosis—that she is dying.

Those who have been hit with dire medical news can relate to remembering the smallest details; in Fogelberg’s case, the ceiling fan spins and a cat paw through the grass in the backyard. And parents will be able to sympathize when Fogelberg, insisting her girls
“live in the security of having their mamma with them forever” until the moment she stops breathing, acknowledges with a heavy heart that she has just lied to preserve healthy appearances. These are the types of details that keep a reader hooked.
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