A renowned American soprano tells the “personal mythology of [her] opera.”
At the beginning of her career, an academy teacher told Tillemann-Dick, “to be a Great, you need three things…you must get very sick, you must fall in love, and you must work, work, work. Then, in ten years, you will really be something.” As her debut memoir shows, she did all three with impressive grace and dignity. The author splits the book into three acts to mimic the structure of an opera and show her rise and fall. In the beginning, Tillemann-Dick had all the makings of a great singing career: talent, connections, and luck. However, her prospects looked bleak when she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. She learned that she needed a lung transplant or she would die within a few years. Thankfully, the author had a large, supportive family behind her as she tried to reconcile her illness with her passion for singing. Throughout the book, she describes not only herself, but her family members (she has 10 siblings) in a relatable fashion. Even though there are a lot of characters, they are all sufficiently fleshed out. Tillemann-Dick ably shows the grueling process of trying to get healthy, keeping the tone upbeat while effectively demonstrating the gravity of the situation. As she was healing, she fell in love; while her relationship was far from perfect, it was enduring and necessary to her recovery. As the narrative ends, readers see that the author has achieved the kind of greatness she was seeking: “I’ve fallen in love, I’ve gotten very sick, and I’ve worked more than I ever knew was possible….Even the great divas die. But like a timeless melody, true greatness never does.”
An uplifting story of overcoming significant odds to fulfill a dream.