‘A searing memoir … I didn’t know Julie, but in these pages I grew to love her.’ Lucy Kalanithi
Born blind in Vietnam, Julie Yip-Williams narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, only to have to flee the political upheaval of the late 1970s with her family. Loaded into a rickety boat with three hundred other refugees, Julie made it to Hong Kong and, ultimately, America, where a surgeon gave her partial sight. Against all odds, she became a Harvard-educated lawyer, with a husband, a family, a life. Then, at the age of thirty-seven, with two little girls still at home, Julie was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.
Growing out of a blog Julie kept for the last four years of her life, The Unwinding of the Miracle is the story of a vigorous life told through the prism of imminent death, of a life lived vividly and cut too short. With glorious humour, bracing honesty and the cleansing power of well-deployed anger, her story is inspiring and instructive, delightful and shattering. More than just a tale about cancer, it’s about truth and honesty, fear and pain, our dreams, our jealousies. And it’s about how to say goodbye to your children and a life you love.
Starting as a need to understand the disease, it has evolved into a powerful story about living – even as Julie put her affairs in order and prepared to die.
HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW
The story opens with a harrowing statement from Julie Yip-Williams and I was in tears, something that would continue to happen throughout this book. Each chapter an honest account of 5 years of her life and how her moods changed, her hopes and fears for her family and preparing her husband and little girls for the times she wouldn’t be around anymore.
Within a couple of weeks of Julie Yip-Williams being born the chances of her living a healthy, happy or long life didn’t have good odds. Julie was the third child to be born to her Vietnamese parents in Vietnam, and the second to have cataracts, except Julie’s were much worse than her sister’s had been. The grandparents, well grandmother’s solution to Julie not being a burden on the family was to have her put to sleep, never to wake up.
Julie escaped that fate and a few more before at the age of 4, leaving her home with her parents and siblings and heading for the USA where surgery managed to restore limited sight to her. Julie didn’t do things by halves, studying with bottle bottom glasses and magnifying glasses but she went on to achieve a Harvard law degree, a top position at a prestige firm and a fairy story romance that in the future would be tested beyond any natural limits.
At 37 years old Julie was happily married to Josh, she had a career and two little girls, Mia and Isabelle, before she was swept off her feet again when she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer. There are no holds bared in this story as she goes through so many different stages of hope, determination, realisation and desperation and how it affects all of them.
There are so many tremendously brave chapters but one particularly really got to me, a scene at one of her daughters schools and she really looses it, not in a shouting way but in such a tender moment, the little things that we all take for granted. The kindness of people sometimes just wows me and this was one of these times. Even now I have tears rolling down my face thinking of this.
Having said all that, Julie’s life really is one to celebrate. Her courage throughout her life is tremendous. If there had been a way to beat this disease then she would have done it. A truly remarkable woman with a remarkable husband and daughters. The final chapter has been left to Josh as the last couple of weeks leading up to her death were impossible for her to continue. A very touching and frank ending and new beginning for him and their daughters to move forward.
Many thanks to NetGalley for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in Vietnam, Julie Yip-Williams was a writer, mother, wife and lawyer who grew up in California and graduated from Harvard Law School. In July 2013 she was diagnosed with Stage Four colon cancer. She died in March 2018, aged forty-two, and leaves behind her husband, Josh, and their daughters, Mia and Isabelle.