In this tragic story of a life plagued by disease, Williams (Picking Up the Pieces, 2017, etc.) confirms the old adage that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Williams’ difficulties began at an early age. She writes that her biological father was a substance abuser who left her with visible scars, and that her stepfather abused her both physically and emotionally, well into her 20s. She was eventually liberated from this turmoil and found new life with her husband and their growing family. Williams was the happiest she’d been in years and training to run a marathon when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. She survived this, but thereafter faced a series of other life-threatening illnesses, including an ear infection that left her with permanent partial facial paralysis. Through her pain, Williams says, she found joy and comfort in providing help to others “who needed it more than I did.” She shares her story with people across the country as a motivational speaker, celebrating inner beauty, living joyfully, overcoming fear, and embracing successes and failures. Williams’ moving story is sadly overshadowed by poor writing, including clunky transitions, excessive clichés, and spelling errors. Such distractions make it difficult to focus on the memoir’s raw emotion. When she tells of being crushed by the news that her cancer has spread, for instance, her language—“dang you, cancer”—doesn’t seem to adequately convey her anger and distress. Furthermore, her tendency to explain the emotional significance of each scene robs readers of the ability to experience the story by witnessing people’s actions, thoughts, senses, and feelings as they happen and make their own judgments. That said, one can’t deny that Williams’ story, as a survivor of cancer and abuse, is an important one to tell, and her determination to “live happy,” no matter the circumstances, is truly empowering.
An undeniably inspiring but poorly executed memoir.