Sunday, March 20, 2016

Book Review: Poor Your Soul: A Memoir by Mira Ptacin

"Poor Your Soul: A Memoir" by Mira Ptacin
First published in 2016
306 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

The Short Of It:
"Poor Your Soul" is a fascinating, hard-hitting, brutally honest memoir about grief, love, family and moving on.

The Long Of It:
Imagine an unplanned pregnancy with a new boyfriend -- despite the fact that you take your birth control pills religiously. Imagine getting engaged and trying to get excited about the unexpected life change of an infant. Imagine trying to navigate New York City healthcare without insurance, because, until you got pregnant, you were perfectly healthy.

Then, when you're five months along and have begun to make peace with the whole situation, imagine receiving the devastating news that the baby has multiple birth defects and can't survive outside your womb. You have three options, none good: terminate the pregnancy, induce early delivery or wait and see what happens.

This was the situation facing 28-year-old New York City grad student Mira Ptacin and her boyfriend Andrew, and "Poor Your Soul" recounts Mira's tremendously difficult journey. The book is much more than that, though, because Mira also weaves in her mother's story of bravery and heartache, a compelling tale all its own; a physicist turned restaurant owner who left Poland's Communist regime and learned English by watching soap operas, Maria is the epitome of a strong woman -- never afraid to speak her mind and always helping whomever and wherever she can. She and husband Philip adopted a baby from Poland when Mira and her sister were young. Sweet blue-eyed baby Julian grew into a well-loved teenager -- and then at 14 he was killed by a drunk driver.

I thought Mira made a very wise decision to intersperse her mom's story with her own: mother and daughter, two dead children, parallel -- unfathomable -- grief but different methods of dealing with it. It also allowed us to see key events in Mira's life -- like that time she ran away from home and lived with her two-timing, drug-dealing boyfriend for a handful of months not long before her brother was killed -- from two perspectives.

Mira has bared heart and soul in this memoir. She sugar-coated nothing, and seemingly held nothing back. She describes moments of unfounded bitchiness toward ever-patient Andrew, profound sorrow, shame, guilt, fear and anger, her sex life, her insecurities, life in New York City, her childhood in Michigan, her experience carrying and losing baby Lilly, and her struggle to move on with life with total unabashed, unfiltered honesty. I was in awe at Mira's vulnerability. (I was also wildly curious to see what Mira, Andrew and dog Maybe looked like, so I stalked her Instagram!)

I appreciated Mira's candid, sincere, real account of this terrible thing that happened to her, her grief and, ultimately, how she overcame it. An added bonus is that her writing is gorgeous -- almost poetic at times -- and full of lovely similes and metaphors. Plus the book is as readable as a novel. I highly recommend this insightful, enthralling memoir.

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