In the opening of "Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, " Monica Wesolowska gives birth to her first child, a healthy-seeming boy who is taken from her arms for "observation" when he won't stop crying. Within days, Monica and her husband have been given the grimmest of prognoses for Silvan, and they must make a choice about his life. The story that follows is not a story of typical maternal heroism. There is no medical miracle here. Instead, we find the strangest of hopes. Certain of her choice, Monica must still ask herself at ...
In the opening of "Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, " Monica Wesolowska gives birth to her first child, a healthy-seeming boy who is taken from her arms for "observation" when he won't stop crying. Within days, Monica and her husband have been given the grimmest of prognoses for Silvan, and they must make a choice about his life. The story that follows is not a story of typical maternal heroism. There is no medical miracle here. Instead, we find the strangest of hopes. Certain of her choice, Monica must still ask herself at every step if she is loving Silvan as well as a mother can. The result is a page-turning testimony to the power of love. By raising ethical questions about how a death can be good in the age of modern medicine, Holding Silvan becomes a joyous paean to what makes life itself good. Whether you have suffered profound loss or not, this book will change your life.
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The topic of this memoir is gripping?perhaps daunting to some?but read it not just for the unique story and complex perspective on an ethical issue most would avoid talking about in private, let alone public; read it for the spare, striking prose and unsentimental observations of real people in the midst of as well as on the frontlines and periphery of tragedy. Wesolowska wastes no time on platitudes and banalities. She tells the raw truth, the one we all live, whatever our griefs and joys.
May 31, 2013
A Beautifully Written Story
If you're avoiding this book because you think it will make you sad, or depressed, or any other negative emotion ... don't. This book is about love and the things we do, sometimes hard things, in the name of love. It's also exceptionally written, clear, and free of any pathos. There are no appeals for sympathy or charity, just a story about love and parenthood, and yes our challenging medical system.
Apr 23, 2013
You Will Not Be Able to Put it Down
I asked to borrow this book from a friend when I saw it at her house and read the beginning, then ended up buying it for myself and reading the whole rest of it in one sitting while I told husband, children, and dog to leave me alone for heaven's sake. Reading this book feels very important because of the story it tells: a couple struggling to understand and make decisions after their first born child suffers massive brain damage during delivery.
This is a memoir and Weslowska doesn't back away from any of the difficult ethical and emotional issues that faced her as she and her husband walked this harrowing path. The book itself is a day by day account. You really feel like you're living through it with her, because of her excellent skill in description and the flow of the writing which is smooth and dexterous.
This book is so important right now with so many of us having to make difficult decisions regarding quality of life and end of life for loved ones who are unable to decide. Weslowska walks us through the whole process, the difficulty of what we can know and what we can't with our newly found technological ability to extend life. I highly recommend this book. It's a must read for anyone who works with children facing life threatening illnesse, also for those in a hospice situation, or those with family members who are having to make these decisions. And most of all for those of us who will have to face these decisions ourselves, eventually, which means, I fear, just about all of us.
Apr 21, 2013
Powerful, beautifully-crafted book. Read it!
This powerful, well-wrought book is a must for anyone thinking about death and parenting in the modern age. Wesolowska shares with us, in beautiful prose, the story of her and her husband?s decision to spend the few precious weeks of their firstborn son?s life holding and loving him as opposed to forcing him to stay alive via intrusive, artificial means. It is a hard book to read, but well worth the effort. Wesolowska doesn?t sugarcoat the experience of disappointment, rage, and loss that is necessarily part of such an experience. We follow her story with baited breath, as she must have, hoping against hope that Silvan will somehow survive in spite of it all. He does not. And we experience her pain as a parent, struggling to reconcile her joy-filled expectations with the heartbreaking reality of her son?s brief life. The ultimate message, however, is one of hope: Silvan ? even in his short time among us ? lives a full life. A strange and unexpectedly complete life. Yet the book is not merely an intimate narrative of Silvan?s life. Wesolowska does not stop there (although she could have). Interwoven with this bittersweet tale, is a compelling meditation on American culture and the American medical establishment, both of which too often value quantity over quality. The fact that Wesolowska is able to move us not only emotionally, but also intellectually, is a tribute to her skill as an author and her love as a mother. This book should be required reading for all medical professionals.
Apr 16, 2013
A Fierce and Courageous Story of a Mother?s Love
Monica Wesolowska has written a fierce and compelling account of love and loss and more love. This story should be read by anyone who has been engulfed by a tragedy and who has lived on to risk and love again.
Holding Silvan is a beautifully written and glaringly honest account of a crisis faced by a couple and the family, friends, nurses, and doctors who surrounded them.
I recommend this beautifully written memoir to friends, therapists, pastors, and anyone who wants to be reminded of the transformative and unexpected choices we can bravely make for those whom we most deeply love. This book will deepen your appreciation for all of the blessings in your life and give you greater compassion for those among us who must make the hardest of choices.
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