- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (March 7, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594205124
- ISBN-13: 978-1594205125
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Still Point of the Turning World Hardcover – March 7, 2013
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Author One-on-One: Cheryl Strayed Interviews Emily Rapp
Cheryl Strayed's most recent books include the best-selling memoir Wild, which was Oprah Winfrey’s first selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0; the advice essay collection Tiny Beautiful Things; and her debut novel Torch. Raised in Minnesota, Strayed now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, the filmmaker Brian Lindstrom, and their two children.
Cheryl Strayed: Why did you want to write this book?
Emily Rapp: I wrote this book out of necessity; I would say I didn't want to write it, but that I had to write it. I was compelled, in a way I've never been before, to try and make sense of the chaos of my life in the wake of my son's terminal diagnosis. I wanted to write it as a way of kicking back against grief, that great leveler, and I felt an urgency to wrangle with the deepest issues of human life--What is luck? Where do we go when we die?--because I was being faced with them in a real-time, intensely dramatic way.
Cheryl Strayed: What was it like to write this book, at the same time Ronan was slipping away from you?
Emily Rapp: It was terrible, and it was beautiful. On the one hand, I was tracking his decline; on the other hand, I felt swollen and bright with love. It might sound silly, but a broken heart is an open one, and I was definitely broken. But I was working, and this gave me purpose, and the more I learned from Ronan’s presence--his innocence and beauty--the more I wanted to write about what this parenting journey had taught me not just about being a mother, but about being a human being.
Cheryl Strayed: Who were the writers who served as touchstones during this process?
Emily Rapp: Mary Shelley, Louise Gluck, Sylvia Plath, Simone Weil, Carson McCullers, old Akkadian myths like the Epic of Gilgamesh, and especially the work of C. S. Lewis.
Cheryl Strayed: What did you learn that surprised you, about the process of grieving for Ronan?
Emily Rapp: That grief can be electrifying, shot through with moments of deep presence and a feeling of being in the moment, which alternatively creates a feeling of elation, of true happiness. I was surprised that I could laugh, and love, and be, and also grieve through all of that. It taught me the fundamental truth of death-in-life that we all try to avoid but eventually cannot.
Cheryl Strayed: What do you most want readers to take away from the experience of reading this book?
Emily Rapp: I want readers to rethink their notions of tragedy and normalcy. I want them to find beauty in our human fragility, in the precariousness of all our lives, and I want this to act as a catalyst for them to live and love more boldly in their own lives. To make their lives big and rich and full and meaningful, however that might look for them.
Photo Emily Rapp ©Anne Staveley
Photo Cheryl Strayed ©Joni Kabana
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2013: When her first child Ronan is diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare terminal and degenerative illness, Emily Rapp is forced to meditate on one of life's cruelest questions: what does it mean for a parent to outlive her child? Rapp can't help but dwell on all the things that her son will never do--the full life that wasn't robbed from Ronan so much as it was never given. Still Point of the Turning World is brave and magnificently written. Though there are moments of levity, in some ways, it can be hard to recommend Still Point because Rapp's story is so overwhelmingly sad. ("Here," you might say, "why don't you read this and bawl your eyes out?") But this is a book that's honest and thoughtful, and we find that, like Rapp herself, enduring such heartbreak imbues us with a new sense of wisdom and courage. --Kevin Nguyen
Amazon's editors selected this title as a Best Book of the Month in biography & memoir. See our current Editors' Picks.
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Top customer reviews
This book is well written and a fast read. It does include a few beautiful moments between the author and her son. I particularly loved the details of the author hiking with her son, feeding him avocado and ice cream, and sitting on the couch listening to opera with him. But, I wish there were more of these moments. I also wanted to know more about how Ronan's diagnosis affected the author's relationship with her husband. The Vogue synopsis states that she wanted to have another child, but her husband did not. The book itself never mentions this. Finally, the author talks about how they only want the most minimal of interventions for her son and that they planned on declining a feeding tube (kiddos with Tay-Sachs eventually lose their ability to eat orally).
As a mother of a child with a life limiting disease on home hospice care, I was hoping for more details about the author's days with her son. I wanted to see the ups and downs, rather than being told generally that in the midst of great sadness there were moments of supreme joy. I wanted to know the stress on their marriage and how they stayed strong. And, I wanted to know what happened when they declined the feeding tube. My son is on a feeding tube and there are a lot of problems with it. I understand why someone would not want a feeding tube. But, I also don't think I could handle watching him slip away faster. I understand the agony of the choices you have to make when you have to weigh quantity of life versus quality of life. I wanted to see what happened when the day finally came to make a decision about the feeding tube or another intervention and if the author would be able to keep her resolve to use only minimal interventions. I wanted to know how she felt and struggled with the decision(s), because there isn't a right answer and, in my experience, no matter what choice you make, you always second guess it.
I walked away from this book feeling pushed away, put down and disappointed. And even though she wouldn't want to hear it, I still can't say how sorry I am for her pain and that I wish things had been different for Ronan and Emily. My heart truly goes out to her.
Bravo for transmuting pain into gold, and reminding this reader why how and why the act of writing literally and figuratively saves my life.
Barbaa LaSalle (author of "Finding Ben")