The Still Point of the Turning World: A Mother's Story
Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan. He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, 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.
'Emily Rapp didn't want to tell this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book.' -- Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild 'A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. The Still Point of the Turning World is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying. This book is Rapp's, and Ronan's, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us.' -- Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Some Fun 'This memoir of extraordinary tenderness and grace in the face of unimaginable loss is searingly beautiful in the way of a sacred text. Emily Rapp certainly didn't sign on to be our guide into the deepest crevasses of the human heart, but that is what she has become. Of course this is an undeniably sad book, but don't let that stop you. It is also one of the most powerfully alive books I have ever read. Every page shouts: This is what it is to love! To risk! To lose! To bear witness! An unforgettable moral and artistic triumph.' -- Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion 'Written with remarkable precision and restraint, Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World takes us to the depths of grief, where almost against our will, heartbreak becomes beautiful.' -- Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and Kayak Morning 'Emily Rapp has written an intimate, compelling and often unexpectedly funny story that speaks to some of the most universal truths of being human. More than just a narrative, this is art, not to mention essential reading.' -- Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story 'Emily Rapp transforms her particular life situation - being a mother to her son Ronan, who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease - into something universal, challenging readers to remember that love is all we ever have. Rapp's words will sear your heart and make you want to be a better parent, sister, partner, friend. Reading her book will change your life.' -- Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God 'Emily Rapp vows not to avert her eyes, and she keeps her promise: to the son she is losing to a rare genetic disease, to her family, and to her readers. The result is a staggeringly brilliant and heartbreaking exploration of love, literature, life, death, and belief. Rapp's language is as propulsive and beautiful as her grief is brutal, and her intellectual curiosity is insatiable. She asks the hardest questions any human being is ever forced to ask, about how we understand ourselves and our children, how we love and learn to let each other go. Reading Emily Rapp is like visiting a lush, complicated, inimitable planet. Fly there as fast as you can.' -- Rachel Dewoskin, author of Big Girl Small and Foreign Babes in Beijing On Emily's blog, 'Little Seal': 'There's no shortage of mothers chronicling the exploits of their children online, weighing in on parenting's ups and downs. Emily Rapp is an expert on the latter. In Little Seal, she writes about her son, Ronan, who is 2 1/2 and has Tay-Sachs disease. This isn't your typical mommy blog. Ronan is slowly dying - he can no longer move or see, and he has had a variety of seizures - but you won't find a more lyrical, inspiring blog. Readers can count on Rapp for a jolt of humanity and perspective amid the mundane.' -- TIME magazine, 'The 25 Best Blogs of 2012' 'Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers.' -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) 'A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life.' -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Emily Rapp is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award, a James A. Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas-Austin, and the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Bucknell University. She is currently professor of creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and a faculty member in the University of California-Riverside MFA Program. Her writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, and the New York Times. For more information on Emily, visit her Wikipedia page, 'http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Susan_Rapp', and read her blogs, 'http://ourlittleseal.wordpress.com/ and http://open.salon.com/blog/ronansmom'.