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Signs of Life: A Memoir Paperback – March 13, 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Taylor was 24-years-old and five-months pregnant when a fatal accident claimed her husband. Signs of Life chronicles her life as she processes the tragedy and its ramifications. Like Gilbert�s Eat, Pray, Love (2006), this memoir will divide readers, with some seeing Taylor�s story as an inspiring journey of self-discovery and others viewing her narrative as self-obsessed, honest but only as a means to elicit sympathy. A high-school English teacher, Taylor uses the classic texts she teaches to establish her chapters. Works such as Sartre�s No Exit and Salinger�s Catcher in the Rye prompt heavy philosophical questions. What is suffering? Is tragedy evaluable and comparable? Should suffering be compared? But rather than serve as segues to bestowing illumination, her reflections stop short. She describes daily life and emotions microscopically but fails to extrapolate from her experiences beyond what we already know, that life is both tragic and joyous. Readers won�t find Taylor�s memoir revelatory, but it is wry, embarrassing, funny, and touching. --Katharine Fronk --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Told with pulsing heart-in-the-hand pace—this book reads like a primer for anyone who has experienced the beast that is grief.  With wit, gutting honesty, and a modicum of self-pity, Natalie Taylor gives us permission to cry the necessary gamut of tears that healing requires…and that includes tears of joy.”—Laura Munson, author of the best-selling memoir This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness 
“Some writers have a compelling story; others have an original voice. But it is the rare writer who has both. Natalie Taylor is one of those writers. Read this book if you've ever had to find your way back from the dark place of loss or if you want to hear how someone so young, and raw, and unprepared, did, all while keeping her dark sense of humor. Signs of Life proves that even in the worst of times, under the most difficult conditions, things still grow, and even thrive, in the broken places.”—Laura Zigman, author of Animal Husbandry
“Young women and solo mothers everywhere will find a new best friend in Natalie Taylor, who meets the challenges of her life with grace and humor.”—Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestseller Perfection
“One of the many things I really loved about this memoir is the inclusion of quotes from authors, and the acknowledgment that words have the power to comfort and sustain us. I wish a quote from me wasn't among them, though.  That's because I'm worried that someone will think I was persuaded to like the book because I'm in it, however tangentially. The truth is that literally from page one, I was completely drawn into this remarkably honest story of what it's like to deal with the sudden loss of the person you loved most in your life. I stayed up too late and I neglected my own work to read it.  I wept sometimes, but it was the cleansing kind of crying that feels good for you. More often, I laughed out loud and re-read passages for the pure pleasure of it.  I was both charmed by and admiring of the narrator, who is so smart and funny and fearless and human, and whose gradual understanding of the nature of grief is so profound. Her ultimate triumph feels like our own. Sit down with this book. See if you can stop after page one.” —Elizabeth Berg, author of Talk Before Sleep and Once Upon a Time, There Was You
“Natalie Taylor faced an enormous happiness challenge. In this thought-provoking memoir, she explains how she coped with it and what she learned, in a way that’s profound yet funny, painful yet hopeful. I couldn’t put it down.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
“This is a really good book. Smart and honest.”—Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift

"This candid memoir of a journey into and out of darkness has a full quota of humor and ends on a note of hope."--Kirkus

"Compelling." --Working Mother

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030771750X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307717504
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Griffin VINE VOICE on February 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Signs of Life is a rare and wonderful book that should be highlighted as an example of what a good memoir can be. There is a long list of things remarkable about this memoir, starting with the author is only in her early twenties but possesses a remarkable degree of self-awareness. As an English teacher, not only is the book well written, but also Ms. Taylor weaves in beloved bits of literature that adds even more depth to the story. Signs of Life depicts an emotionally wrenching journey of highs and lows through two life changing events without ever slipping into the self-absorption that can ruin a memoir.

Natalie Taylor and her husband Josh were an average, young, married couple, perhaps a little bit happier and luckier than most. When Josh dies in a freak accident, Natalie is twenty-four years old and pregnant with their first child. Ms. Taylor easily draws the reader into sharing her journey of grief, uneasiness, and awkwardness. The death of a young person holds a unique degree of tragedy, and the descriptions of how Josh's friends and family memorialize him are seen through the unique perspective of how Natalie both yearns and dreads to hear Josh spoken of publicly.

Enhancing Natalie's story are the friends and family that surround her. Often, they provide comfort and company, but equally, they can also irritate and annoy. Ms. Taylor writes across a wide spectrum of relationship joys and challenges with affection and a wry wit. When her son Kai is born, Natalie leans on her family for help and support while they equally struggle with joy and grief.

As time passes, Natalie comes to terms with one of the truisms of life--things change. She returns to her job teaching school, gets counseling, and finds a support group for single mothers.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Death comes when we least expect it, out of the blue. Our lives are changed forever.

For Natalie Taylor, her husband's death in a skateboarding accident came 18 months into their marriage. She was five months pregnant.

She couldn't fathom how she was going to live on for their child. She pictures herself as a zombie-robot, not entitled to raising this beautiful boy. Worse, would she hate the sight of him because he looks like his father?

All of these thoughts sound as if they make for a a painful read. And who needs more pain in their lives? Yes, there is pain. But with each pain and meltdown, there is a friend, an insight, a passage from literature to help Natalie back onto her feet for one more day. In this way, the reader too can see strength.

Natalie teaches high school English. Her worst fear is crying in front of the kids, especially when the curriculum requires works that deal with death (and many, many do). The teens intuit her genuine caring for them, and though they still act out and focus on themselves more than on their grieving teacher, they also show compassion in small and beautiful ways.

I loved this book. Natalie made me laugh in almost every chapter. She is not maudlin. She has what she calls her fairy godmother's blunt advice and her sister-in-law, though annoying, still teaches her a lot about handling of phony people. I loved Natalie's strength, her looking for a spot of sunlight on those ever-gloomy days. She has written vignettes from her life that at some point in anyone's grieving, that other person is going to say, "Yes, it was just like that." I was surprised at the energy and humor Natalie Taylor gave her true and tragic story.

"Signs of Life" is fine writing on a sad subject.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read this book in two days. I was riveted to Mrs. Taylor's journey through grief and learning to be a single mom as her very real life and struggles came venting, screaming, chatting, crying, and laughing off the pages. Mrs. Taylor avoids the banality of a reality show as she never tries to wrangle the emotions of her reader in the interest of her story. She doesn't offer her story as a prescription for grief. Rather, she's just real.

As a fellow English teacher, I appreciated Mrs. Taylor's insightful, clever, and correct use of English literature. I tell my students that literature is a window into another life and another time communicating truths to us. It's clear that Mrs. Taylor looks to literature for the same purpose: to clarify and make sense of her world. It's clear that literature is one of the forces that sustains her. This is a book I'd recommend to every English teacher as internal armor against the infernal and eternal teen question, "Why are we reading this?"

Read this because you are a human.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Opening Natalie Taylor's "Signs of Life: A Memoir," I expected to be drawn in quickly and indeed, Taylor wastes no time. Her poignant journey begins with the sudden loss of her young husband in a freak accident, when she is five months pregnant with their son.

All at once, Taylor is enveloped in the aftermath of death, while awaiting the new life growing inside her. And she takes her readers along for an emotional ride as she learns to rewrite a future without the love and support of her late husband.

Usually, I wouldn't give a memoir of a 24-year-old a second thought, doubtful I could learn from someone who's only beginning to find her way in the world. But Taylor lives, grieves, loves and grows more than many will in an entire lifetime and she does it with courage, dark humor and an admirable innate strength that propels her through the stages of grieving, all while learning to become a mother. At book's end, her story is far from over, but Taylor has clearly emerged with a better understanding of herself and her abilities. This was a quick read. Recommended.
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