★ ☆★ – 3 Stars
Swimming with Maya demonstrates the remarkable process of healing after the traumatic death of a loved one. Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler, Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and independent – and often butted heads with her mother. But Eleanor and Maya were always close and connected, like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter.
Then at age 19, Maya mounts a horse bareback as a dare and, in a crushing cantilever fall, is left in a coma from which she will never recover. Eleanor’s life is turned upside down as she struggles to make the painful decision about Maya’s fate.
Ultimately Eleanor chooses to donate Maya’s organs. Years later, she is able to hear Maya’s heart beat in the chest of the heart recipient. Along the way, Eleanor re-examines her relationship with her daughter, as well as Eleanor’s traumatic life as a child and young woman. In a story that has been called “heartbreaking and heart-healing,” Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one’s balance after unthinkable tragedy.
When a book brings you to tears, you know the writer has pulled you into her words, and with Eleanor she pulls you into her story. I longed for Eleanor through having to tell her daughter’s story. It made me understand how my own Aunt must have went through when she buried her own son. I could never imagine the pain, the questions, or the emotions one might feel, but Eleanor captured just that.
One part of the book that caught my attention, was when she was giving away Maya’s shoes and the girl tried them on then walked to make sure they fit. After the girl left Eleanor could still hear the sound of Maya’s feet. I would never have thought about that, and I can imagine that would be hard on any parent to witness, especially with coming to the realization their child just passed away.
While getting further into the book, the book starts focusing more on the mother though, and I really wish it would have focused more on Maya: her childhood, laughter, the things she did, what she accomplished, etc.
Overall is was an okay book.
About the Author
Eleanor Vincent is an award-winning writer whose debut memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, was nominated for the Independent Publisher Book Award and was reissued by Dream of Things press early in 2013. She writes about love, loss, and grief recovery with a special focus on the challenges and joys of raising children at any age.
Disclosure: I won this book for free via Goodreads First Reads. I did not have to do the review, and this review is my honest opinion.