LEARNING TO BREATHE by Alison Wright

LEARNING TO BREATHE

One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Globe-trotting photojournalist Wright (Faces of Hope: Children of a Changing World, 2003, etc.) recounts her recovery from a nearly fatal bus accident in Laos and her subsequent, extraordinary adventures.

With bones crushed and lungs lacerated following a mountain-road collision, the author waited hours for help, using breathing techniques she learned from Buddhist monks to cling to life. Miraculously, she pulled through and was carted off to a hospital in Thailand, where she underwent many invasive surgeries before returning to the United States to continue her recovery. Wright paved the road with some formidable obstacles, including a trek through Arctic lands, a hike up Mount Kilimanjaro and a pilgrimage around Mount Kailash in Nepal. Any one of these activities would be challenging for someone who had never suffered severe injury, but she doggedly pushed through all of them in pursuit of physical and emotional healing. The author uses this quest as a framing device for episodes from her pre-accident life. Unfortunately, this eventful life doesn’t fit into a narrative that lacks the cohesive structure to support it. Too many sloppy parallels between present and past, complete with the lessons learned from each, raise too many unanswered questions. Did Wright learn to breathe during her stay with the Tibetan monks years before her accident? Or did she (re)learn that breathing while scaling Kilimanjaro in an oxygen-deprived atmosphere two years after her accident? Or did she really (re)learn that breathing on her pilgrimage to similarly oxygen-lacking Mount Kailash? Her relatively short text leaves much unclear and fails to do justice to a larger-than-life story.

Uneven writing and pacing distract from an inspirational message.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59463-046-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008




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