Radical Survivor  by Nancy Saltzman

Radical Survivor

One Woman's Path Through Life, Love, and Uncharted Tragedy
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A journey of grief and healing for an elementary school principal who lost her husband and two young sons in a plane crash.

At first glance, Saltzman’s book may seem like a cathartic recap of her life, a reminder to herself, an homage to her family, and love letter to her husband. While it does contain elements of all those things—this is a memoir, after all—the book goes beyond truelove lost and delves much deeper into the effects and outcome of monumental loss and grief. While Saltzman doesn’t necessarily set out to teach people how to deal with their grief after losing a loved one or the sadness of divorce or even the fear of having cancer—which she experienced twice—she can’t help but transfer her strength and perseverance onto the page with her introspective words and honest portrayal of her emotions resulting from her experience with all three topics. The pages are peppered with transcriptions of a handful of the thousands of condolence cards and letters Saltzman received over the years from friends, family, and even strangers. Many feature the same question and assumptive statement: “How did you do it? I could not have endured the loss of my family.” To which Saltzman responds: “‘What choice did I have?’ I could end my life or I could choose to live. I made a conscious decision to live.” She cites her parents’ high expectations as a main source of strength, along with tough life lessons that revealed how sad endings can make way for new beginnings. Even cancer taught her the patience of not rushing the process, which was just as relevant for enduring difficult medical treatment as it was for soul-crushing grief. Saltzman’s experience illustrated the inevitability—maybe even the necessity—of falling apart in order to rebuild, which for Saltzman was emotional as well as physical, from coming to terms emotionally by listening to the wonderful stories about her husband and sons to the eventual reconstruction of her breasts a decade later. Perhaps an unforeseen, bittersweet result of Saltzman’s tragedies—the crash and the cancer—was her ability to serve as a major source of comfort and support for others in similar situations. In some cases, she became an unwitting role model from whom others drew strength while in the shadows of their own tragedies.

Heartbreaking sadness leads to words of courage, perseverance, and enduring strength likely to inspire others on the path toward healing. 

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-615-65819-3
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: WoWo Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2015


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