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Breathing For a Living: A Memoir Hardcover – July 9, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; 1 edition (July 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401300596
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401300593
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,431,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It would be easy to assume that the story of Laura Rothenberg's battle with cystic fibrosis is one of a brave young woman staying constantly positive in the face of tremendous adversity. But situations such as hers are rarely that simple. Thankfully, the portrait that emerges in her memoir, Breathing for a Living, is that of a complex and very real human being who experiences joy, anger, despair, and hopefulness while struggling to live the kind of normal life most of her fellow college students take for granted. And while her candor is admirable, what makes Rothenberg a remarkable author is her dedication to just getting words written down on the page at times when many would simply retreat from the world. Through an agonized process of waiting for a lung transplant, she writes down exactly what she's feeling. She writes extensively as her body fights the disease and struggles to accept the new lungs. And as she is shuttled back and forth between her New York home, her academic career at Brown, and numerous emergency hospital stays, she keeps on writing. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at three days old, Rothenberg spent much of her life in and out of hospital rooms so her medical knowledge is extensive and well documented. One gets the impression that staying on top of this information helped her feel at least somewhat in control of her own situation and it lends a steady gravity to her emotionally charged memoir. The book is a pastiche of e-mails to friends, journal entries, and the occasional snapshot. It looks very much like a college kid's scrapbook, which, in many ways, it is. Rothenberg’s energetic prose is highly informal and probably more guileless than one would see from a more seasoned writer. But that intimacy and simplicity adds to the charm and, as Rothenberg's health deteriorates, the heartbreak as well. By the end of Breathing for a Living, the reader loses a friend but gains a greater appreciation of what it means to live. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

"I'm a typical college student, if there is such a thing," writes Rothenberg in this far from typical work. "Except that I won't be able to look back on my life from an old age." Rothenberg, who died in March at the age of 22, originally wrote these calm, devastating lines in an essay as a freshman at Brown University. During her sophomore year, after Rothenberg became so ill from cystic fibrosis that she had to leave school, she decided to weave this essay into a much longer account. Starting early in 2001, as she waited in Boston for a double lung transplant, and continuing until her death, Rothenberg collected her personal diary entries, poems and copies of the e-mails she wrote to her many friends-dispatches from the battlefield of her own body. Shining through every report, every raw or bittersweet detail, is a fierce dedication to honesty and an immense desire to connect to friends and to life. "We have lungs," one of her doctors calls to tell her early one morning. Rothenberg describes repeating the phrase into the phone to her still-sleeping parents; they were on their feet and packing by the time she repeated the joyous phrase to other friends, who repeated it like a mantra into mobile phones until the waiting room at Boston's Children's Hospital was overflowing with people who loved her-"Team Laura." Too soon, however, the joy of the transplant and her return to Brown gives way to descriptions of one setback after another, culminating in rejection of the lungs. Refusing to indulge in even a wisp of false hope or consolation, Rothenberg reminds us that there is a power in us that is greater than even the greatest suffering. This slim book will help anyone whose life has been touched by cystic fibrosis, and countless others as well. It is an unforgettably real testament of the strength of one human spirit, and of our common human wish to know and say and be the truth.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on August 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Take a deep breath before you read this slim little volume - and then try to imagine you can't do it, can't draw in enough air to feel like you've accomplished anything. That's life for Laura Rothenberg, who, we readers know at the outset, died at age 22 of cystic fibrosis before seeing her memoir published. Strung together from a series of essays, diary notes, and emails she kept during her adolescence and very brief young adulthood, Breathing for a Living is a devastating portrayal of what life is like for a very young and very terminally ill person. It's raw, beautiful, bittersweet, honest - and as the most joyful section (a lung transplant becomes available) quickly becomes the saddest as complications and tissue rejection set it, the writing becomes more illuminating and lustrous.
Superb. Would that Laura had lived on to write again.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By peaceyall on July 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
laura was supposed to be in my year at brown, and although i didn't know her, i knew her face as i did many of the other kids at brown (being that we're about 5500 students). i was in one of her classes - the one that her grandmother refers to - and i clearly remember her coughing, the comments on the daily jolt, laura's op-ed piece and the professor's remarks the next class. i remember being so disappointed and angry that the professor actually had to get up in front of our 500 student class and tell us to be respectful of one another.
when i listened to laura's piece on npr, i felt chills throughout my body. this was someone i barely knew, but i could feel her strength and energy shining through. reading her memoirs gave me a feeling that i can't explain - i knew some of her close friends at brown and travelling back and forth between home, school, and multiple hospitals while remaining strong for others is such an admirable quality that many of us can't even imagine having.
laura is such a unique person with very strong qualities that i find truly amazing. although her memoirs can be saddening, they're a reminder of how lucky we are and how trivial some of the things we complain about really are.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first heard Laura Rothenbeg's story on NPR- as a student at Brown she recorded her daily life with Cystic Fibrosis- waking up each day trying to breathe- multiple treatments each day to rid her lungs of the thick mucus that clogged her airways. A typical story of this chronic terminal disease, but told in private, personal terms. Laura was a model for other studnets her age- she so wanted to live and to love. She went through a bilateral lung transplant but suffered from chronic then acute rejection. She was able to find romantic love with Brian and friendship with her many friends. Whomever Laura knew she touched their lives, and many of these people remember her in their stories in this book. Tragically Laura died at age 22- she was ready to die when the time came, and she helped prepare her loved ones for this loss. People with Cystic Fibrosis are my heroes- they live each day trying to breathe-every day of their lives.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The value of this book is that it isn't just about a brilliant young child, who becomes a brilliant woman, and ageless soul, with cystic fibrosis, but that its a book about making the most of each new day we are given. It is also a must read for anyone who is or has a loved one with a chronic or terminal illness, because the young woman offers up such priceless information of how to deal with friends, family and those in the medical profession.
This is really important, and one reason we have bought copies of the book for the local Hospice, local public library and the local juvenile diabetes, and local cancer support groups we belong to. I encourage you to buy an extra copy, and donate it to your local library, hospice, health care support group, or personal physician.
Read it even if you do not have a family member or friend who is dealing with a medical challenge, because I guarantee the insight the young author offers will become valuable to you at sometime in your life. She teaches great lessons in how to listen better. How to have empathy. How to not give up. And how to milk every drop of life from each new day. And how to avoid pity parties. In essence she teaches the reader how to live.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Being one of the nurses who cared for Laura at Hasbro Childrens Hospital, one cannot help but to become emotional while reading this story. It brings back visions and memories of a young woman who brought so much light to our lives. She made me look foward to going to work and seeing her beautiful smile. She also made me appreciate life much more than I had prior. Laura is always in our hearts here at Hasbro.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By cf reader on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I am a 26 year old woman with cystic fibrosis. In reading Laura's memoirs I found a very real and honest view of what we (cf patients) go thru everyday. Laura had an amazing strength and courage to endure all her trials and I found reading her personal story helped me understand some of my own feelings.

I think this book is a wonderful read for all persons...if you face an illness, know someone who does or just want to be touched by a lovely young womans story.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have a lot of respect for Laura Rothenberg, for having lived her whole (entirely too short) life struggling with health issues that most of us can't imagine, and for trying to give others a glimpse into the world of the chronically ill. That said, I would be lying if I claimed to find her memoir as compelling as so many others have. I think my biggest problem was that I didn't feel I got to know much about Laura as a person. Most of the book seemed to consist of detailed descriptions of the procedures performed on her, using medical jargon that I am not familiar with, so while I definitely got a sense of the hell she went through on a daily basis, and the frustration it caused her, I didn't garner any real knowledge of her disease. That would have been okay if the book was balanced out with more about her life away from the hospital - her family, friends, and school, and how she balanced these with her illness. So many friends and relatives were mentioned in passing, but we never got to know them. The emails she wrote to the people she cared about are presented anonomously, so we don't know who she's writing to. I didn't even know that she had a boyfriend until the epilogue, when she mentioned moving in with him. I just didn't feel that I got to know much about this young woman at all, and I really would have liked to.
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