2 out of 4 stars
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In If I Die Before I Wake: A Caregiver’s Journey, author Eli Shaw gives a true account of his work and service as a caregiver. The author’s journey began when he was ten years old. He met and befriended a boy with Down syndrome and protected his friend from verbally and physically abusive bullies. Since then, the author has spent many years working as a caregiver for others in both official and unofficial capacities. Central to the author’s account is his experience of caring for his best friend, a man with HIV.
In a down-to-earth style, Shaw weaves compelling social commentary into his memoir. He addresses stigmas that come along with certain diseases and disorders, describing how caregivers bear much of the negative impact. It is not the author’s intent for this book to be taken as a work of instruction with all the answers that caregivers need. Still, Shaw does impart some practical advice, and his transparent reflections can provide insight and hope for readers going through experiences similar to his. The author also includes a collection of short writings from people living with HIV, offering a valuable variety of perspectives.
Now, Shaw mentions that he wrote different chapters of this book in different years. Although it is not uncommon for an author to spend years writing a single work, the way the information is pieced together in this memoir has a fairly disjointed feel in places. At times, the author has a tendency to ramble and to veer away from the topic at hand, making it a bit difficult to follow his points. It is likely that much of the information in the book could have been more succinct, including the introductory details. The author spends time in the opening chapters explaining (or repeating) what the book is about and why he wrote it, essentially giving the book four introductions. The last few chapters, followed by the author’s acknowledgments and biography and then sections of additional reflections, give the closing of the book an awkward flow.
Also, the writing suffers from a number of technical errors. Incorrect and missing punctuation, inconsistent spelling, improperly formatted dialogue, and incorrect formatting of the titles of other works are issues throughout the book. Errors in letter case are also frequent, as the author often capitalizes common nouns while not all of the proper nouns are capitalized.
Overall, this memoir addresses sensitive areas of life and death with compassion, which readers can find enlightening and encouraging. Yet, the memoir would be stronger with a more concise and focused flow, better organization of its information, and more thorough editing to correct the technical errors and inconsistencies. Therefore, I give If I Die Before I Wake: A Caregiver’s Journey a rating of 2 out of 4 stars. I’d recommend it to memoir and nonfiction readers with an interest in health and wellness concerns and the care of humanity. However, the book should be reedited to satisfy a wider audience.
If I Die Before I Wake
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