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Seven Stories That Saved My Life: A Memoir

by Carol Smith

Pub Date: May 4th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-4197-5013-7
Publisher: Abrams

A journalist dealing with the tragic death of her young son tells seven stories about people “reinventing, finding purpose, and discovering strength.”

When Smith suddenly lost her 7-year-old son, Christopher, to an abdominal obstruction, she left her freelance writer’s life in Pasadena to find comfort doing the journalism work she loved at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. For a time, she was able to “separate my past from my daily work.” That relative peace ended, however, when she came across information about progeria, a hyper-aging disease that causes children to die before they reach their teens. What she learned led her to write a story about a 10-year-old local boy named Seth who suffered from the disease. Of course, the process was exceedingly difficult because of the memories it brought up about Christopher, but it also made her realize that a short life could still be filled with “wonders” and “love and lots of joy.” The author then wrote more features that touched on different aspects of her continuing grief. The courageous people she interviewed included Billy, who underwent extensive facial reconstruction and was forced to grapple with what it meant to live with a new identity, just as Smith was forced to do after Christopher died; and John Shalikashvili, Bill Clinton’s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who suffered a life-changing stroke. As the author explored how someone accustomed to being in control of large-scale situations grappled with regaining such basic functions as balance and bodily movement, she was able to come to grips with her own need for control in a world where the only certainty was uncertainty. Her job at the Post-Intelligencer ended with the paper’s demise as a print publication, but the stories she collected from that time inform this intimate and humane narrative that should offer solace for readers who have experienced similar circumstances.

An uplifting group of moving stories.