Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Final Arc of The Sky by Jennifer Culkin

One of the reason's I love to read memoir is the ability to glimpse into a life I do not or will not have. Reading of other careers or childhood experiences that are not like my own helps me to understand the way the world hums. So when I received A Final Arc of Sky from the publisher as part of the Early Reviewer program, I looked forward to reading it. Being a critical care nurse on a helicopter in the Pacific Northwest is pretty far from where I am both physically and psychically.

In fact, these are the parts of the memoir that were the best written and the most compelling to read. When she is flying in the air with her partners and working on saving a life or looking at her parents graves from the window of the helicopter, this is when the narrative really compels. She is a beautiful writer and I think the prose is snappy and downright interesting.

I lost momentum and focus the minute she got into the sick bed with her mother and then her father. It felt like these parts took up half the book and I kept putting it down to go to other books. I had to really drag through it. It felt like these chapters were simply a recounting of detail by detail two people's last days and all the gory familial antics that go on when someone is dying (her own included). I was not impressed.

The last part of the memoir which was a discussion of the deaths of follow critical care nurses in helicopter crashes and her own illness got a bit better but I felt like many of these reviewers did that it was disjointed and choppy. She jumped around a lot and it was hard to figure out where in time she was and what she was doing. I think in fact, there may have been 4 different helicopter crashes that she talked about--flashback upon flashback. Oh my.

I think perhaps her illness might require a whole second memoir which I might like to read. The part of the book where she describes not being able to go back to work because of her MS was terribly sad. She loved her job and was very good at it.

Ms Culkin is a very good writer. There are phrases and metaphors and ways of describing things (especially at the beginning) which are quite poetic. She does have a tale to tell and the parts of the book dedicated to her flights and career as a nurse are fascinating to read.

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