Read The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp Online


Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan.  He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun.  He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father.  He would be an avid skier like his mother.  Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education. But all of these plans changed whenLike all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan.  He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun.  He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father.  He would be an avid skier like his mother.  Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education. But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder.  Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months.  Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting.  They would have to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future.The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it.  Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to “make my world big”—to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology and myth.  Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child.  In luminous, exquisitely moving prose she re-examines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life....

Title : The Still Point of the Turning World
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ISBN : 9781594205125
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Still Point of the Turning World Reviews

  • Myfanwy
    2019-04-28 01:04

    Chapter 22 of Emily Rapp’s memoir The Still Point of the Turning World opens with a quote from Franz Kafka, “By scribbling I run ahead of myself in order to catch myself up at the finishing post. I cannot run away from myself.”I cannot run away from myself.Running away from yourself is exactly what you wish to do when you experience the dying of someone you love. And imagine if the one dying is your child? You will say to me (as people have said to Rapp), “I can’t imagine that.” But you can, Rapp would argue, and you do, which is why people like her, the mother of a dying (and now, sadly, dead) child make us so uncomfortable. They represent an inconvenient truth and that truth is that we are all of us dying as we live and that includes our children, too, though we dare not acknowledge that truth. We dare not.Rapp had no choice but to acknowledge the truth of her son’s impending death. Indeed, she faced it head on. Still, she does not spill her tears on the page. She doesn’t ask for pity. She doesn’t want platitudes or euphemism She doesn’t want hugs. And, most certainly, she does not want anyone to say to her, “I’m sorry.”She just wants you to be present in your life and in the lives of those you love.Reading this book brought up all kinds of complicated emotions in me. Mostly, though, what I felt was grief: for those I’ve lost, for those I will lose someday, for myself. I grieved for Ronan. I grieved for all of the children who have died and who are dying.Grief is not necessarily a weeping thing, as Rapp shows us within this book. What it is is an animal thing. An animal thing like giving birth. Grief is uncontrollable, as is dying, as is giving birth.My husband and I have always talked openly (in an age-appropriate way) about death with our son. We don’t say things like “passed away” or “gone to live with the angels” no matter how tempting they are. He is interested in my parents, his maternal grandparents. I show him pictures. We talk about them. Recently, I let him take out and examine several objects of my father’s that I have. A leather box. A leather key holder.He wrote a note (with my help) to my father asking him to leave a sign if he was a friendly ghost. He placed is in the key holder and said he would go back the next day to check. The next morning, when there was no note, he was disappointed, but said it was what he expected. He did just as I have done countless times, asking for a sign from those I have loved who have died. Show me that you still exist. Show me that there is something more.Even as he learns of these dead people, even as he falls in love with them, he also learns how to let them go. He learns how to grieve them just as his young mind begins to understand what sad means.Yesterday, I found two photos in frames I’d forgotten about. One was of my mother as an infant and then other of a my father as a young boy. I handed these photos to my son and told him who they were and he said, “I love them so much.”

  • Josie
    2019-05-03 07:45

    I feel guilty not liking this book but I just thought it was OK. I wanted a more personal account of Ronan and his illness. And in fact I very much liked how the author spoke about her experience when I saw her on the Today Show, which is what prompted me to buy the book. But the book itself was a bit preachy and almost even pretentious to me, and more philosophical then I expected. It just wasn't a very personal account of what her life was like with Ronan and that is what I hoped for. It was a story about the author and how she used literature, writing, and philosophy to help her cope with her horrible situation. Not what I expected.

  • Anna
    2019-05-17 06:08

    How does one even begin to critique a memoir? I'm sure there are academic answers to this question, which rattled through me as I read THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD, but I don't think any of them could help me feel less uncomfortable at the thought of making value judgements about another person's experiences and emotions. I can pick apart a novel's plot and characters with the best of them, but to do that to a memoir seems more personal. The plot, such as it is, is not of the author's creation, and the characters are for the most part outside her control. With that in mind, what more can we ask other than that she write honestly and beautifully?In THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD, Emily Rapp makes it both easy and difficult for her readers by doing just that: writing honestly and beautifully about her son Ronan, his diagnosis, and her fierce commitment to the act of mothering him while surviving her grief. Over the course of 250 pages, she explores both Ronan's short life and her role as his mother who will outlive him, and in doing so, she does an incredible job of exposing the shortcomings of how American's so frequently talk about life and death. For Ronan, ambition is non-existent; perfection, by many standards, is unattainable, yet how can we claim imperfection of someone who is, from beginning to end, no one less than exactly who he is?What I was being asked to do felt both entirely instinctive and completely impossible. To live the reverse of [Mary] Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, to love my child without limits or expectations. Years from now he would not be chasing me down, asking "Why didn't you love me?" He will be dead, and I will have been his mother. It wasn't the story of motherhood I expected to tell, but...I felt I could claim it. I had to. Firefighters who spring into the blaze to save people are not brave; they have no choice. (231)There are times when Rapp's writing is repetitive: again and again, she circles back to the things that Ronan will never do, the circumstances under which she will never mother him, the fact that her son is dying and there's nothing that will ever change that fact or her loss. Some readers may find the repetition tiresome or annoying. I experienced it as a style, Rapp's grief swirling around her like a tornado or hurricane, with stillness and clarity in the center, at the eye of the storm.And it's in the center of her grief, as she writes about what it means to be a person, to be alive, to live with disability and difference, to be "not normal," that Rapp's contemplative writing is at its best. She has no interest in writing an overcomer narrative, an uplifting story about how her dying son taught her how to live life to the fullest, and she rejects the idea that any meaning or purpose to Ronan's existence is reliant on it being "found" by her or anyone else.The meaning of Ronan's life was not to teach me; we often say this about people who defy our notions of normal and I find it pathetic, patronizing, and a way of distancing ourselves from our own fragile bodies and tenuous lives. I don't believe that disabled people exist to teach people life's stories—that is not their purpose; it isn't anyone's purpose. We are not "the disabled," some shapeless, teeming mass of nonnormative bodies designed for teaching purposes, like some kind of specially designed pedagogical barbarian horde. (114)Emily Rapp's grief is ragged and palpable, and while her writing is beautiful throughout, there were times when I presumed to wonder why she chose to write about Ronan so immediately after his diagnosis. Some of her references to and extrapolations from various texts feel forced, and some sections seem unfocused. There's no denying that this would almost certainly have been a very different and possibly more polished book had it been written with more distance.But then, who am I to presume to think that Emily Rapp should "polish" her grief, or that she will ever find distance—whatever that means—from the death of her son? I am a childless young adult who has lived 26 years without experiencing the death of someone close to me. I am not a professional writer, someone who instinctively turns to a blank page as a map to relief from my life. And I can't help but agree with Cheryl Strayed, whose blurb for THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD reads, in part: "Emily Rapp didn't want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of"Rapp recognizes this necessity long before we ever do, and she embraces it:[Writing] ordered chaos, focused energy, provided a wear of "bearing up" that no period of restfulness could possible accomplish. In other words, rendering loss was a way of honoring life. ... There was nowhere to go inside Ronan's diagnosis, but on the page my mind could move, and I was for that brief period of time—an hour, four hours, three minutes, five seconds—free. (126)THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD is not an easy book to read—what has happened to Ronan is bullshit, plain and simple; there can be no comforting platitudes, no talk of "God's plan" or other explanations. Rapp knows that she will grieve the loss of her son for the rest of her life. At the same time, this is a rewarding book, awash with Rapp's love for her son. It's not a day by day catalogue of life with Ronan; it's an exploration of and testament to what it means to be his mother, both before and after he's died. It's meaningful and thought provoking and beautiful, and I'm glad that I read it.February 15th via Facebook: Ronan passed away peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 15th at about 3:30 am in Santa Fe. He was surrounded by friends and family. If you would like to make a donation in Ronan’s memory, please do so at the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association, who have been a huge support to Emily and her family.I received a finished copy of this book in advance of publication via The Rumpus Book Club. Subscribe to The Rumpus Book Club for $25/month and receive one new, soon-to-be released book in the mail per month, plus access to online discussions with each month's author.

  • j
    2019-04-26 02:08

    Lois McMaster Bujold, a great writer made no less great by the fact that she writes science-fiction books with covers like this, wrote one of the truest things I have ever read about becoming a parent: “It's a transcendental act. Making life… 'By this act, I bring one death into the world.' One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between.” This, from a story with spaceships and lasers in it.When we have children, we birth potential into the world. We question ourselves, our spouses: who will this person be? What foods will he like? Will she be as smart as you? Will he inherit your sense of humor, your eyes, your smile? Will she be healthy? Happy? Everyone loves to tell you how your life is going to change after having kids, about how things will never be the same but also how you’ll discover a love you never imagined you could feel, filling you up and overflowing.What they usually don’t mention is the fear. The knowledge that so many terrible things can go wrong. That the world can be a bright and beautiful place, but also a cold and hard one, and that your child will experience a measure of both. You can only hope it’s more good than bad. Only hope, and do everything you can to make it so.The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother for whom all those fears became suddenly, crushingly immediate. Writer Emily Rapp (author of a respected memoir about growing up with a disability that requires her to wear an artificial limb) saw her future collapse in on itself one January day in 2011 when she took her infant son Ronan to the doctor for an eye exam and learned he had Tay-Sachs disease, a debilitative genetic disorder that is always fatal, that cannot be treated or cured, only managed.Read the rest of the (slightly revised and less digressive) review on the Barnes & Noble Book Blog.

  • Heidi
    2019-05-13 00:54

    Where is the line between therapeutic writing that should be contained within one’s private journal, and therapeutic writing that offers meaning and perspective to a reader? Wherever it might be, Rapp stays mostly to the left of it. I considered closing the book forever on page 36 and 47, again on page 57, and conclusively on page 123, where I read that she used to preach in her writing classes the need to achieve objectivity before sharing difficult life stories, “otherwise these stories can be heavy loads for the reader to lift.” I wish she’d heeded her own advice. She had me in the first few pages. Given the heart-wrenching subject-matter, I was pre-disposed to be hers. But now I feel as if I’ve been walking on my hands and knees through broken glass—not enlightened, not engaged, just confused and dizzy from all the dry redundant sermons, the circular rediscoveries of discoveries, the heavy emotional roiling that rarely seemed to cast light. The worthwhile bits, the gems and epiphanies, and I seem to think there were many of them, got lost in the vortex of what is ultimately a self-indulgent memoir of Rapp’s grief and thought process. Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd in Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction say the first challenge of the memoirist is to figure out how to “preside over your own internal disorder.” I wish Rapp had presided more, wallowed less. Barbara Turner-Vesselago, in her marvellous book, Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall, says the way to avoid the ego-involvement and ineffectiveness of writing self-consciously about recent events is to acquire a certain distance from what’s being written about, say about ten years. I didn’t want to read Rapp’s journal and watch her mind “spin and spin and spin.” I wanted to learn from her hard-won knowledge and wisdom as she interpreted that experience, ten years hence.

  • Marleah
    2019-05-13 01:49

    I have an eight-month-old daughter and was afraid that, while reading this book, I would be in tears the entire time. Not so (and this is neither positive or negative, just a fact). Rapp writes about her son Ronan with love and truthfulness, with interludes into literature and references to poetry, as well as her own personal history. While reading the first half of the book, I was irritated by the literary and poetic interludes, because just as I started to be drawn into Ronan's story and started to feel that crushing emotion, I was drawn back out with a reference to Mary Shelley or Pablo Neruda. As I continued reading, however, I realized that this book would be nearly impossible to read -- or to write -- without those interludes. The reality is simply too overwhelming and terrible to confront all at once. The interludes act as a coping mechanism, enabling one to recover before experiencing the next wave of despondency and helplessness.

  • Gina
    2019-05-06 05:11

    As a new mother myself, I cannot imagine having a child with a terminal illness. However, the rank of two stars isn't for the author's strength of character or difficult situation (she makes clear she does't want anyone's pity anyway), or the writing, which is okay (barring that she is sometimes redundant and sometimes contradictory). She gets only two stars because of her tone. I found her to be quite self-righteous, condescending, and unappreciative. For example, she throws away all of the sympathy-type cards she receives because she doesn't like the cards' messages. We get it. Your situation totally sucks (although she also says there is no "ranking" system for difficult situations). But come on--there could have been some really heartfelt words--words she needed to hear--from the individual, if only she'd taken the time to read it. I did like that she tied in writings from other authors, and I have no doubt that she fiercely loves her son.

  • Bridgett
    2019-05-16 05:47

    I was about 3/4s of the way through Emily Rapp's moving memoir about her son's life and thus his dying when my daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. You never know exactly how much the words, the experiences, the intelligence in a book affects your own life, your own experiences, but I think I can say that ultimately this book probably changed the way I looked at the illness. Rapp's book is alive with great compassion and also an indictment of our very modern way of looking at life and death. She brings in poetry and literature in a way that is edifying and also gives the reader many reading paths to follow. I have read a lot about Buddhism lately, and Rapp's changing and moving philosophy of what it means to live more so than what it means to die has given me a better way to look at my own life and the lives of my children. I am especially moved by her discussion of value and dignity in all lives and how often we do, without realizing it, put values on lives. Like all great books, this book is beautifully written and explores a wide range of ideas, coming to rest in the liberating comfort of not knowing.

  • Rob Blaine
    2019-05-21 06:05

    My enthusiasm for Still Point of the Turning World hit peaks and valleys, much as Ms. Rapp's touching story of caring for her terminally-ill son undulates between moments of profound insight and sheer rage. But, this book epitomizes why it is I think we read books in the first place -- that search for truths through relating (or trying to relate) to the experiences of others. At least, that's why I read books, for that rare instance where a book shakes your understanding of the world and of people, and hopefully leaves you with new insights about our relationships with one another.

  • Judith Hannan
    2019-04-21 00:52

    Toward the end of her exquisite book in response to her son Ronan's diagnosis of Tay-Sachs disease, Emily Rapp talks about going to a "Being With Dying" training session. She tells of being shown photographs of people dying and the "death portraits" of people who have just died. In many ways, The Still Portrait of the Turning World is like a death portrait; it is an unflinching examination of grief. Tay-Sachs has no cure. Rapp makes sure the reader understands what this means in the opening pages. "I was standing on my heart, which was simultaneously beating in my nose ... I had swallowed my own teeth." Every parent whose child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness has a view into an abyss of mammoth depth and foreigness. When my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I made periodic visits to that hell but I didn't have to dwell there because I had the consolation that my daughter could survive, which she did. Ronan didn't have a lilfe-threatening disease; Tay-Sachs is a murderer 100% of the time. Rapp descended into that abyss, spent enough time there to decorate it with the furnishings of innermost horrors and grief. Against her own advise to herself and her students about waiting to achieve distance before telling a story of emotional upheaval, Rapp plunges in immediately. Writing was, "A net, a landing point, a dock from which to view the turbulent and troubled water without having to wade in it every moment of every day." But Rapp is not giving us her journal. She " ... went back and shaped [her] words ... wrestled with language and form." From her grief, Rapp has shaped a work of art as powerful as a painting, like Picasso's "Guernica." But The Still Point of the Turning World is not an unrelenting lament. Rapp places her, her husband's, and Ronan's experience into a larger picture of how society deals with ill children or someone who is "other" (Rapp herself has a physical disability), the response of friends, etc. Sometimes these sections can seem too angry; Rapp acknowledges that she is angry and sometimes it is misplaced. She might recognize that she is too hard on the world outside her experience. Sometimes, her points become redundant and I had small quarrels with how she defined words like "lucky" or "sentimental". But Rapp's perspectives are necessary because, at some point, we will all be called upon to manage our own horror or respond to that of another, and Rapp has done the dissection for us to help us prepare. There is no transcendence in this book, no moving forward (a phrase I hate) or even moving with (which I prefer). Rapp takes us to the threshhold across which Ronan will pass alone, without Rapp or we her readers. It is a powerful moment. I am grateful for the lack of distance in this book. How else could there a passage like this: Each day I picked apart my grief with a little knife; I combed through it; I boiled it in petri dishes and tried to blow it up. I sprinkled it with gas and lit a match, watched it burn, put out the fire."Rapp's love for Ronan is as physical a presence in this book as the way his body was against hers as she carried him on walks and errands, as he sat against her on the couch as she wrote. There is so much love and tenderness. There is the joy that Rapp has that she has Ronan, that she had the experience of being his mother. At our Passover seder this year, my cousin brought his three week old baby and I held him as I led family and friends through stories of freedom and liberation. Liberation is not about being unweighted but about receiving whatever weight is placed in your arms. I felt every 9.5 pounds of that baby. The thought of not carrying him constricted my muscles and my heart and I thought of Rapp.Rapp relates her experience with such beauty, poetry, originality and both emotional and literary intelligence that, while I felt the pain of her story, I was held there by quality of the art. I can only hope that Rapp will write more.

  • Megan
    2019-05-17 05:55

    I was fortunate to read an ARC of this book. This book was beautiful. The author is a Wyoming native so I enjoyed reading about references to my home state. Her son, Rowan had Tay-Sachs disease. He recently passed away. She has a popular blog (Little Seal) about her journey with her son.This book came into my hands shortly before my mother passed away. It was a serendipitous gift. It provided me such comfort as I often read it under the covers with a flashlight in my own cocoon of grief. Emily Rapp is a talented writer who is able to immerse the reader into her story without being overly sentimental or completely grief stricken. I recommend it highly. It is not just a book about loss, in fact, it is quite the opposite; it is a book about love and life.

  • Amanda
    2019-05-11 03:50

    I feel bad being at all critical of this book because the subject matter is so heartbreaking. I love the 'thesis' and message of it - that in a way it was freeing to love this child with no expectation for the future. I just wish the book would have been a little more organized. It felt very much like we were just reading a diary with no endpoint and at times it got repetitive. She is a beautiful writer though and I can't imagine how tough it must have been to write about that topic. I am glad she did.

  • Corri
    2019-05-11 06:58

    I am so grateful to Emily Rapp for writing this book. Her son, Ronan, was Diagnosed with Tay-Sachs at 9-months-old in January 2011. He died in February 2013. As another who experienced the privilege and pain of her own child's "slow fade," I see this book as a gift -- to me, to my children, to everyone. I first read Rapp's work in the 2011 NYT piece "Notes from a Dragon Mom" and am happy that this book resonated with me as much as the article did.This book is not the heartwrenching story of a little boy lost, it is not the bittersweet narrative of a child who will die much too young. It is not even a timeline of the trials and tribulations of parents making sense of their beloved son's short life. It is more Rapp's internal struggle to make sense of parenting, of her son's life, of her own life, of anyone's life. I agree wholeheartedly with Rapp, who says in discussing C.S. Lewis's feelings after the death of his wife "nobody -- ever -- can feel another person's agony," so I won't say that this book describes the experiences or feelings of a parent whose child is dying. But I can say that it does describe my emotional journey. Rapp is able to frame her thoughts in more literary and theological contexts than I do mine, but the questions for which she seeks answers, insight, and comfort are the same. I feel a kinship with her feelings on so many things: That our children were not here to teach us something -- that line of thinking does them and their own lives a disservice; that luck and fortune and even karma, if they exist at all, are not righteous; that so much of what our focus is as 21st century parents is misguided and missing the point entirely.This book is not for the faint of heart. It is raw. Rapp writes mostly of Ronan in the past tense, but did the writing while her son was living. She includes many esoteric literary references, which I found ot be enlightening and somewhat comforting, but others may find off-putting. She discusses an experience that no one wants, and usually only want to hear about so that they can be glad it isn't theirs. But there is so much to learn about parenting all of our children from what Rapp discovers.

  • Erica Nicol
    2019-05-12 00:53

    Knowing the subject matter of this book - Emily Rapp's navigation of loving and parenting her baby son Ronan, diagnosed with a terminal illness - I opened the first pages with both hunger and trepidation. The death of babies and children, perhaps because so hard to contemplate, seems to be better (or at least easier) fodder for fiction than non-fiction. We don't want these deaths to happen, after all. But they do. And The Still Point of the Turning World is a quietly gorgeous, honest and absolutely necessary book that gets to the heart of what it means to be a parent, to be human, to love deeply in the face of death. Rapp does several things brilliantly. She brings a great deal of honesty and self-awareness to bear, sharing herself and her perspective courageously as she writes about her anger, her search for meaning and balance, her questions that never seem to be - quite - answered. She writes of her son Ronan with love and respect, and this is seen not only in her beautiful descriptions, but in her search to understand how her Ronan experiences his world, love, and his family. But I think what endears this book to me most is the way that Rapp, as a writer and reader, turns to literature for comfort and guidance. She is a discerning and insightful reader, and when she brings the writings of writers like Simone Weil, Margaret Atwood, Mary Shelly, a wealth of poets (including Katie Ford, Kobayashi Issa, and Louise Gluck), and finally C. S. Lewis to bear on her life and that of her son, she does so brilliantly and compellingly.Rapp's exploration of what it means to parent in the moment, without all of the future goals that commonly drive parenting, feels urgent and earnest and propels her (and her reader with her) toward wisdom. And while the subject matter of this book is as weighty as anything Atlas had to bear, her writing is not - it is deft, often wryly funny, and evocatively beautiful.

  • Dana
    2019-04-26 01:53

    I won this book, and in doing so, was encouraged to write a review in return. Because of the heart wrenching subject matter (a mother's thoughts during the very short life of her infant child, who she knows is slowly dying), I thought a negative review would be akin to throwing a puppy over a bridge. It is just really hard to be critical of a nonfiction book that has such a sad theme. Now that I'm done with the book, I am relieved to say that, while it was hard to immerse myself at first, I thought it was overall pretty well written. As a mother, I empathized with the author and her terrible news. How terrible to know that your new arrival would soon be making a departure. Coincidentally, I saw the author interviewed on television, talking about the book, just weeks after her son had died, before I knew I won it, and I cried just watching the interview. And while I could not fathom the idea of losing one of my children in the way that the author had, I found her views on watching her son die were very similar to a situation in which I find myself with an adult friend who has terminal cancer--there is an acute knowledge in both situations where it feels that every moment is fleeting, but also heavy with the need to slow down time in order to store up everything that is happening into memory so that once gone, the dying are not forgotten. There are some amazing observations sprinkled throughout the book that would be very applicable to anyone who is mourning a loved one. So while initially dreading reading this book, I found myself somehow consoled and enriched once I finished.

  • Downward
    2019-05-12 07:13

    this memoir of a mother's life with her terminally ill baby is heartbreaking, and emily rapp mixes her own day to day experiences of life with her tay sachs afflicted son, ronan, with passages about the nature of grief and death from cs lewis, mary shelley and others. the major jist of the book is that while we place the value of a person on their potential, how do you come to terms with someone whose potential exists literally in only the moment to moment sensory pleasures that make up ronans life. how do you function with friends who dont seem to get it, or with people who want to console but dont realize that in this case there is no consoling. rapp asks a lot of questions, but there arent many answers : how could there be? this is about the absurdity and cruelty of life. its very difficult to be critical of a memoir without seeming critical of a persons life, especially in a circumstance as tragic as this one, and while i found her struggle and her unconditional love for her baby inredibly moving, the actual telling of the story, the structure the aesthetics the all the things that make it a work of art, left m e relatively cold. : (

  • Kristi
    2019-05-11 05:57

    Grief is a deeply personal process that requires one to be fully self-absorbed. Clearly the author is in the midst of grieving while writing this because she wanders through each chapter completely self-absorbed, searching her own intellect through literature, religion, and philosophy for meaning and answers to her incredibly sad situation. Answers can not be found here. And perhaps that's her point.Emily takes readers into (not through) her own grief process in a way that for me was neither helpful or insightful, just confusing. The ending was so abrupt it left me searching for missing pages.All we can do for a grieving person is BE with them, listen to their story, and love them as they journey through the pain. For an author to require that of her readers is demanding too much.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-01 01:00

    The Still Point of the Turning World is a memoir that will stick with me forever. Emily Rapp's story of her life with Ronan, her son who was born with Tay Sachs, is honest, beautiful, heart-breaking, full of raw emotion and poetry. I found myself slowing down to read it carefully and then going back to read sections over again. I don't usually do that. I loved the way she incorporated other literature, poems with her story. Really anything I write won't do thsi beautiful story justice. It should be on everyone's to-read- list.

  • Karen
    2019-05-18 03:52

    I was a little disappointed in this book. I assumed it would be about Ronan, the infant son of the author, diagnosed with Tay-Sachs. It was actually about the author and her reactions and dealings with his diagnosis and brief life. I suppose it would be an excellent book for someone dealing with grief, but it wasn't what I was hoping for. I would recommend this to certain people but not just anyone.

  • Roxane
    2019-05-15 02:46

    Beautiful, intense, thought-provoking, open. More thoughts to come in essay form.

  • Britt
    2019-05-04 02:03

    Rapp writes on page 102, “Anyone who has ever trudged through one of Hegel’s muddy, dense passages of prose may understand this frustration.”I am very sorry to say that this sums up how I felt about this entire novel. Such a shame as the subject matter meant it had so much potential to be a moving, emotional read yet it just left me cold. I’m trulysorry for what she went through and the untimely death of her son but I did not engage with neither her or her writing.

  • Natalie
    2019-05-07 03:00

    What to say about this book. It took me forever to read, but that's not really the book's fault. I've been busy, so only got to read a chapter or so most nights, and it was good for that. It wasn't a book that, if you put it down for a few days, it was hard to get back in to. Yes, this book is sad, and that is complicated by the fact that, right after I received this book from the Rumpus Book Club, we got word that Ronan had died. This book brings up an interesting dilemma for me: as book reviewers, how can we write honestly about about a memoir such as this--not about the content, but about the actual writing? How can we criticize, if indeed the work is in need of criticism, without sounding like heartless bitches? I don't know the answer to this. What I will say is that I think this book, in many ways, is flawed as a narrative, but, of course, I commend Rapp on her scholarship and her ability to write this work and do her duty as a writer after her son's death by continuing on with interviews and book club chats. (Which sort of brings up another question: as writers, we know that at some point art and commerce have to meet--our books have to become our business. How can this book become Rapp's business? I can't imagine...)What makes me a bit uncomfortable is the fact that people are going to be very squeamish about criticizing this book, even when they really want to and it's deserving, because of the subject matter. Of course, this is the decent, human thing to do, but is it fair? Rapp chose to put this book into the world. She could have written it for herself, for her family, and left it at that, but she decided that this was, for a variety of possible reasons, this was something people needed to read. By signing with Penguin and sending this book to the publisher, Rapp made a decision to open her life and writing up for critique; however, I see many people sidestepping any negative feeling they have about the writing or about Rapp's story telling. Let's face it. I'm doing it too. Some are saying this is common with memoirs; I don't know if that's necessarily the case. I think that this story, particularly, is sensitive, not just because it's about the dying of a child, but because it's about a child who has died less than a month ago. There was no space, no time for the readers or for Rapp to look back on the story. I wonder if this was part of the purpose, if Rapp wanted to book to be out there before Ronan died so that he, living, could be a part of it. I don't know. I'm not a nonfiction writer, but I've definitely heard the advice that the writer should give him/herself some time, distance from the experience before trying to write about it.While Rapp wants the reader, I think, to see this as a document of Ronan's life and as a contemplation on the process of grieving (even while someone is still alive), what I kept thinking about was "this is how a writer grieves." What I mean by that is that Rapp clearly found solace not just in writing about Ronan and her process as Ronan's mother, but she also found comfort in reading and in research. This is clear through all of the references to other works scattered throughout the text. As a writer myself, I found this really interesting.

  • Debbie Petersen
    2019-04-21 01:45

    I love the handful of earth that you are. Pablo NerudaThis review is long overdue, since I finished quite a while ago. I love the writing in this book; it is raw and stark and real and pulls no punches. It has been described as a memoir of dealing with her son's terminal illness, but it is so much more than that. What does it mean to live a full life? Ronan was loved and cared for from birth through his death. He happily lived in the moment every day. Then he was gone. Who is to say that this is not meaningful? He missed out on all of the things we think make up our lives, but he was never aware of those things or that he missed them. What does it mean to be a parent, when your child is going to die before age three? Parenting advice tends to be future directed--lessons and language and learning to walk and run. In the morning we lifted Ronan from his crib and kissed him. There was joy. We laughed. We lived. I took him hiking and rubbed his fat feet in the dirt and lifted his face to the juniper scented breeze. He went on road trips, to parties, coffee shops and restaurants. He was our companion, our child, our beloved...If Jesus were alive and I jostled up to him in a crowd with Ronan in my arms and touched his cloak, I would not suddenly grow a new leg, and Ronan would not start walking and talking and holding his head up without assistance. But as a result of the teachings of Jesus, people might regard Ronan and me differently, and with respect: the outcasts, the outsiders, brought into the communal fold. That really spoke to me, because it is a problem I have with the holy huddle of churchgoers that make up present day Christianity, especially in the South were I live; where you congregate on Sunday with others mostly just like yourself and subscribe to a common creed that has no room for question and certainly not dissent. Outsiders are treated with suspicion unless they come around to the exact beliefs and expectations of the group, at which point they are welcomed as long as they maintain the standard of behavior expected of them. Jesus walked with the people who were wounded and broken and invited them in as they were. All humanity should be invited into the communal fold no matter where they are in their journey. Rapp delves into this further when she talks about her youth group experience and how she was told that when she got to heaven, God would restore her lost leg. The underlying message is that she is not a complete person right now in her present condition and was somehow "less than" others--but God would fix her later, don't worry! She did not feel that way and it is presumptuous of Christians to assume. It is hard to accept that sometimes there will not be healing as we understand it. I love that Rapp looks for solace in a variety of places, and finds it; a Buddhist retreat, the New Mexico desert, a shelter for abandoned animals, not to mention art and the thoughts of philosophers, theologians and artists.God is in all of these places, if one takes the time to look. I loved this book, right from the opening line. This is a love story, which, like all great love stories, is ultimately a story of loss.

  • Jack Waters
    2019-05-12 05:03

    "It is a unique and terrible privilege to witness the entire arc of a life, to see it from its inception to its end"(pg 246)Rapp was such a witness of her son Ronan's brief life. She writes both against and of the finality that was given young Ronan by doctors due to his rare Tay-Sachs diagnosis. She seeks to illuminate the quality of life when it is certain that quantity will not be assured. "What standards are we willing to use in order to judge the quality of any particular life? What kind of life am I willing to subject my baby to?"(pg 110)I had to put the book down for a few days after reading a Mary Shelley quote from Frankenstein which serves as the 6th chapter's epigraph. But who am I to assume personal grief by reading about another's actual, palpable grief? Here are a few more quotes that representatively stood out:"One thing I knew: Ronan would not, like Frankenstein's monster, be sitting out in the middle of a dark forest, lonely, perched on a log and wishing somebody loved him. Not my boy."if you were unable to tell your own story, did it mean you didn't have one to tell?havoc happens on its own, with or without your clever machinations"I wondered what kind of baby he would be in a year? "The answer: mine. Even after he was dead: mine. Wasn't that enough?"(pg 72)"nobody can control what the body knows, what it needs to release. Grief, I realized, is watery and trembling and always exists beneath the surface of real life; just a gentle touch and it's spilling everywhere."(pg 100)"We are all trying to escape our existence, hoping that a better version of us is waiting just behind that promotion, that perfect relationship, that award or accolade, that musical performance, that dress size, that raucous night at the party, that hot night with a new lover. Everyone needs to be pursuing something, right?"(pg 70-72)

  • Sue
    2019-04-23 06:45

    When rating books, I usually reserve my 5 star ratings for books that make me want to immediately call a friend and tell her to read this book! For that reason, my initial reaction to this book was to rate it 4 stars. But the more I considered this, the more I realized that I would never want to call anyone and say, "You must read this book. It's about a baby that's dying." Nevertheless, it's a beautifully crafted and heart-breakingly honest memoir of 5 star quality that deserves to be read by thoughtful people.The memoir encompasses just 9 months of the author's life and that of her young son, who before his first birthday, is diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that unequivocally and unrelentingly ends with death. More a meditation on loss than a chronological recording of a short life, the author struggles with painful questions for which there are no real answers. What is the value of a life that ends before it has really begun? Can a child who is daily losing the most primary of his senses realize that he is loved? How does a mother who was determined to give her child the best of everything accept the knowledge that she cannot even keep him alive? How do parents go on when the anticipated joy of watching their precious child develop is replaced with the gut-wrenching agony of watching him slowly die? I do recommend this book, though be forewarned it takes stamina to journey with this mother into her grief. The Still Point of the Turning World is a book both dark and lovely, and I believe I am a more empathetic person for having read it. In that small way, perhaps, a ripple of good has been created by a life that was far too short.

  • Jean Farrell
    2019-05-10 02:08

    I wanted to like this book more than I did. There were many parts that deserved 5 stars, but the book as a whole left me a little colder than I would have expected, and I'm not exactly sure why. In some places, it was a very intellectualized exploration of grief, but that's okay. Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking is a very intellectualized exploration of grief, and I think it is one of the most moving, compelling personal narratives I have ever read. I think part of it is that grief for an infant is, so sadly, quite abstract, unlike Joan Didion's grief for her husband, and for her daughter who lay in a coma at the time of her husband's death, with whom she'd spent much of her life. I think I also found the book somewhat repetitive and disorganized. Which also should be okay, because grief can be repetitive and disorganized. I also think there was a certain self-conscious distance between the author and reader. I read that the author and her husband's marriage fell apart while she was writing the book, yet she didn't write at all about that, did not even allude to it. I understand that she might have been protecting her ex-husband's privacy by not talking about it, but it makes the book feel less honest. I found the sparse narrative about her husband's feelings, and their interactions in the face of the loss of their son odd until I read the author's blog one day, and she mentioned her "boyfriend." Then I found out she'd split from her husband, and it made sense. Its a terribly sad story, and many parts of the book are heartbreaking and moving, and I certainly liked it, but I can only give it 3.5 stars.

  • Leah Coffin
    2019-04-20 00:53

    This wasn't an easy book for me to read, for a lot of reasons. A lot of the critiques I read on Amazon were like, "But what about the baby?" I didn't mind that so much; the book is about how she copes with her son dying, and in any case, criticism like that makes me hear, "How DARE a woman write about herself!" I also didn't mind that there were so many literary quotations; if that's what she needed to get through the experience of her child dying, then so much the better.What bothered me the most, I guess, was the lack of concrete suggestions as to how the people in her life could best support her, other than saying stuff that was "terrible and fierce and true" (which someone who hadn't been in her situation couldn't, of course) or, in the case of her spin class, writing checks to cover medical expenses. I'm not a friend of hers or even a parent, but I felt put on the defensive by all her descriptions of weeding out her friends who reacted incorrectly, or dared to offer a sympathy card that wasn't sufficiently literary, or didn't know what to say and therefore couldn't be forgiven. I understand that losing a child, or even potentially losing one, can break something inside a person, but it's not often that I feel compelled to argue with a book, and I found myself getting into full-on ones with this one.Now that I've stepped on enough toes, I'd like to say I still think this book is worth reading, and I got a lot out of it. It wasn't always a pleasant experience, but it's one I'm glad I had.

  • Margo Brooks
    2019-04-24 09:05

    This is a book that every parent--probably every adult should read. But why? Why would anyone, let alone a new parent want to read a memoir about a dying baby for whom there is no hope of a future? Why would I, who am childless, want to read such a book? The answer is because this book explores grief and life and all the hard choices associated with death in a beautiful and powerful and sometimes out of control way. When Rapp and her husband learned that their son Ronan had Tay-Sachs, a degenerative genetic disease from which babies will die before age 3 after a slow loss of function, they weren't particularly brave or strong or profound. They were angry and confused and hysterical. What this book does is to absolutely capture that utter despair and confusion and the love that goes along with it in an attempt to understand Ronan's short life in terms of dignity and humanity. It is achingly beautiful to read and extremely difficult to put down. It is the beginning of a conversation we all need to have about death and life, who we are, and what makes us human. Much more than a memoir, this is a moving portrait of grief.

  • Michelle Gragg
    2019-05-18 06:53

    I'm not sure where to start with my review of this book. I have a hefty library fine because it was overdue and couldn't be renewed due to other people's holds. But it was such a slow read! I kept waiting to get somewhere but in the 250 pages I felt like it really was a still point. I think this is what she was trying to accomplish because that is where her life was for so long. This book I felt, was very little about her son and mostly about her. She spends a lot, or it felt like a lot, of time talking about her time away from her son. Which illustrates that this book was focused on the author's response and very little on the events and day to day. It is hard to judge this book too harshly because it is such a personal and raw perspective. But I was disappointed that in the end only two things are left for me. 1. Life is a journey and we are all just travelers (from an early chapter. And 2. The use of poetry and literature in this book are amazing,

  • Lynne
    2019-05-01 07:02

    Usually I like grief memoirs that give every detail of how and why someone's loved one or loved ones died. The Still Point of the Turning World is different in that it's more like reading a detailed journal of one's grief. It's poetic and lovely and not at all self-serving and whiny like Bloom by Kelle Hampton. I wished Rapp had included more about the the day Ronan died and just after. Instead she writes only about her pregnancy, Ronan's diagnosis, and the time in between. She mentioned a couple times the phrase "nine months into Ronan's diagnosis," but didn't make it clear how old he was when he died. Even though I thought it ended rather abruptly and without clarity, I was okay with it in the context of what this book was.Very much enjoyed. Would recommend to people who know they'd like this kind of read.