HEARTSONG by Anita Swanson  Speake


Living with a Dying Heart
Email this review


A woman recounts coming to terms with a life-threatening heart illness in this inspirational memoir.

A retired emergency room and ICU nurse, Speake (Slow Hope, 2005) did not accept the news that she had idiopathic cardiomyopathy with as much grace as one might expect. “My cardiac diagnosis tilted my whole world off its axis,” she recalls. “It felt like I’d awakened one morning to discover I’d been moved to a new neighborhood in a new city, and I hated it. In fact, it wasn’t long before I developed a whole new list of hates.” Her medication caused nausea and insomnia, and the 10,000 steps she was expected to walk every day seemed a Herculean feat even with the help of George (or “G,” as she calls him), her husband of 25 years. The author was interested in the reasons for her heart disease, specifically whether it had to do with the physical and emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of her alcoholic parents. But, as Speake learned, definitive answers weren’t always available, and with a potentially fatal condition, she needed to figure out a way to be at peace with her past, her present, and whatever the future might hold. This memoir chronicles the author’s journey confronting her own mortality, which included moving beyond the treatments and statistics of Western medicine and into explorations of reiki, mindfulness, and a new sort of relationship with God. Speake’s sharp prose captures the tension she felt in her search for answers: “Had the life I’d led contributed to my heart disease diagnosis? Had there been too many divorces? Too many men? Had my parents been too abusive? For most of my adult life, I’d been a single parent. Had all the years of my hard work in the end been too hard and the years too many?” The book is less about the gravity of the author’s illness than her own inability to not panic over its potential to be serious. In this way, her situation is surprisingly relatable—everyone is dying, fast or slow—and the need to find a way to be OK with that is as urgent for her as it is for readers.

A medical account that successfully examines the deeper fears readers have about death and dissatisfaction.

Pub Date: May 14th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-63152-437-0
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


by Vanessa Grubbs
NonfictionTHE BRIGHT HOUR by Nina  Riggs
by Nina Riggs
NonfictionTELL ME EVERYTHING YOU DON'T REMEMBER by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee
by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee