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A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care by [Culkin, Jennifer]
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A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Length: 248 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over three decades, more than 4,000 patients and their loved ones have shared their most wrenching ultimate experiences with Culkin, a critical care nurse living near Seattle. In this compelling memoir, her moving reflections on life and death interweave clinical encounters with her own life. She looks back at the clockwork of hormones as she began her relationship with her future husband while working 12-hour shifts in a San Francisco intensive-care nursery, moving on to become a traveling nurse in Anchorage, then living in the Alaskan wilderness, completely alone at the edge of the civilized universe. Her marriage, sons, problems with her parents and family dynamics intertwine with memories of patients extricated from wreckage and an impromptu procedure in a helicopter on a patient who couldn't breathe. Culkin details the sisterhood of nursing, with its risks and stress and sharing cups of 0900 coffee, and her own bouts with multiple sclerosis. Describing her life as a flight nurse in the final chapters, Culkin sees herself and others clearly, and poetic juxtapositions make her sentences soar. (Apr.)
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Review

In this compelling memoir, her moving reflections on life and death interweave clinical encounters with her own life. . . . Culkin sees herself and others clearly, and poetic juxtapositions make her sentences soar.—Publishers Weekly

"A marvelous writer, mixing tragedy and reflection with luminous prose . . . We are privileged to share her passion and heartbreak."—Marilyn Dahl, Shelf Talker

""With its perfect capture of the fragility of life and our vulnerable human bodies and bonds, A Final Arc of Sky . . . is a disturbing, powerful read."—Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times

"Rarely have we heard from such an eloquent yet urgent voice from the front lines of mortality. . . . Culkin writes with elegiac grace and unblinking honesty."—Robin Hemley, author of Invented Eden

"Absorbing . . . This former neonatal and pediatric intensive-care nurse has vivid memories of the tiny patients whose lives were in her hands, and she writes of them with warmth and clarity. . . . Powerful and lucid . . . The risks of being an emergency flight nurse-night flights, bad weather, human error-come fully alive. . . . Enthralling."—Kirkus Reviews

"With her electrifying scenes, her gorgeous sentences, and her provocative explorations of the borderland between life and death, Culkin engaged my heart, my intellect, my artistic sensibility, and my adrenaline."—Ann Pancake, author of Strange as This Weather Has Been

"I loved the stories, the language, the point of view, but what I loved most was the way this book was able to break my heart—then mend it."—Judith Kitchen, author of Distance and Direction

Product Details

  • File Size: 1551 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2009)
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2009
  • Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002AKJBD0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,628 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By just kath VINE VOICE on April 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book has only one failing as far as I am concerned. It is far too short.

The episodes related in this book range from critical care for infants in PICU units, to lifesaving measures applied while being bounced around in a helicopter. Each of the stories told by the author of her experiences on the job are mirrored by other stories about her personal life. This serves to make a very compelling read.

The style of this author is informal and down to earth. This is a style I enjoy when reading a memoir. It provides a sort of intimacy that is not to be found by a more formal approach.

I will indeed recommend this book to my friends, and I will also hope for a volume II by Jennifer Culkin.
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Format: Hardcover
After working as a NICU and PICU nurse, Culkin becomes a flight nurse. She describes harrowing life and death scenes, scenes whose outcome is known only if it is bad. If the patient dies in the air, she knows it. If the patient recovers... well, that happens on someone else's watch. Telling her story in a thematic, rather than linear, arrangement, Culkin juxtaposes particular flights with more or less loosely related fragments of her own life: the growing up of her sons, especially the younger; her daredevil bike rides, surprising in someone who works with trauma patients; her parents' aging, illness, and descent into selfishness; her own struggle with multiple sclerosis. For me, the hardest parts of the book to read were those about her parents' final illnesses. Both become querulous, irrational, and self-centered, wanting those they love to perform backbreaking labor to care for them and refusing to accept outside help. None of the book is exactly easy to read--Culkin isn't the kind of memoir writer who carefully balances the grim with the hopeful, and there's a dark edge even to her beloved bike rides--but these sections are just plain ugly. The last chapter, in which she details some of the colleagues she's lost to helicopter crashes, had me almost in tears. Again, she starts not with the first time this happens to her, but the most recent, looping back and forth through the connections. The nonlinear format, which is sometimes disorienting in other places, works particularly well in this last chapter.
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Format: Hardcover
While I love memoirs and creative non-fiction essays, what I don't love is the world of medicine, doctors, and nurses, so I was surprised to find myself unable to stop reading Jennifer Culkin's first book. I read it in 2 days and it was one of my favorite reads of the year.

What I loved about it was the author's honesty and ability to weave her life as a flight nurse in with stories of her childhood and her family life. She speaks to the difficulty of caring for elderly parents (in this case, two who feel they are doing quite well on their own), the family struggles with siblings, and she does it with honestly, not trying to hide that everything is less than perfect, she makes no excuses for herself, but speaks to the reader as a friend--this is how it was.

And throughout the book, there is the author's wit. While the book does deal with difficult subjects, she is able to guide the reader through her book with her incredible forward-moving narrative as well as her ability to see the humor in unfunny situations.

The book is moving, dark, funny, honest, and gives the reader the inside scoop on what life is like for a flight nurse. I know how many times I've seen the medic helicopters go by my house with no idea what these people do and how they do it. It's an interesting look into a side of the medical world that isn't included on Grey's Anatomy or really, anywhere. And while I am not someone who reads medical memoirs, I connected with this one in many ways. And as I said, I couldn't put it down and I was interested in Culkin's thoughts and stories.

What a treat to have such a strong new voice in the creative non-fiction/memoir world. I can now only hope I don't have too long to wait until her next book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a life changing book about end of life care and saving life care for those very ill or injured. I bought this to learn more about the nursing care in a helicopter, but learned and love more that I planned on, and recommend the book to anyone I talk to. She is so intelligent and well spoken, and great vocabulary and great description, that the book is captivating and hard to put down. I'm reading it on my kindle too as well as hard copy. I don't write many reviews, so note that I am here shows how powerful a story it is.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i love personal stories in medicine. as a 40 year retired RN i have many of my own. i learned a lot about the helicopter flight team reading this book
just after i finished it, a helicopter went down killing all aboard. made it hit home.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did, and I was unsure in the first chapter if I'd be able to read it at all. The gory realism of the first story Jennifer Culkin shares had my inner hypochondriac hyperventilating, as cancer runs close to the bone in my family. I set the book aside for a few days, but I really liked the author's direct voice, and I wanted to know the things my nurse friends and family won't or can't tell me. So I picked the book back up, and I am glad I did.

The author's stories unfold just like stories in real life, a little jumbled or hazy in recollection, some a bit too short, when I wanted more; the book itself is a little too short. It reads in places like a collection of essays, but I don't mind that in a memoir - it's hard to make real life fit a perfect story arc. The truth is, life never seems to go according to plan, it just happens at its own whim and pace to some of us, and I felt the author gave strong voice to coping with that with grace and humor and lots of exercise.

I learned a bit about the ability to compartmentalize, to deal with the risk or danger at hand, to stare death in the eye and keep working with competence and compassion. To be able to go back to work they next day takes strength I can't begin to comprehend. To do this while you bear and raise children, nurse or bury stubborn parents, negotiate the landmines of sibling and adult guilt and family crap, fight a debilitating progressive disease, to lose friends to tragedy and then write about it with such clarity, humbles me.

I admire anyone who works in the medical field, especially, the adreniline junkies, the ones who ride the ambulance or helicopters, the brave and strong, who try to save the rest of us, no matter how dangerous, scary or messy.
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