2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
In If I Die Before I Wake, Eli Shaw recounts his experiences as a primary caregiver. The author has taken care of people that battled with various health conditions, including the terminally ill, those with disabilities, and individuals who were infected with AIDS. The title of this book was inspired by Mark, one of the author’s dearest friends. Mark had AIDS, and Eli became his primary caregiver. They shared moments of joy and stress, from wonderful travels to hospital stays. When the virus started to get the best of Mark, he would often say these words to Eli: “If I die before I wake up, make sure you get everything in order.” From that moment on, the author’s job became to get everything in order for people whose lives were overtaken by illnesses or disabilities. The memoir follows the author’s journey as a caregiver. It includes details from the author’s personal life, from his photography projects to adopting his son, as well as his reflections about a variety of topics, such as the AIDS epidemic and the social stigma attached to people who are infected with it.
What I liked the most about If I Die Before I Wake is that it is not a simple collection of experiences. The book presents caregiving as a multifaceted experience that encapsulates contrasting emotions, hurdles, and achievements. In fact, while the book primarily revolves around autobiographical content, it is also a gold mine of tips, insights, and experiences that caregivers can draw inspiration, knowledge, and strength from. I particularly appreciated that, throughout the book, Eli Shaw emphasizes the importance of radically prioritizing the dignity and independence of each patient, inviting caregivers to be conscious of their words and actions. For example, the author points out how caregivers often allow themselves the freedom to express their frustrations without thinking about how their words might affect the patients. Furthermore, the author did not hold back from writing about his own vulnerable moments, from dealing with grief to emotional and physical stress. I commend the author for emphasizing that caregivers also need to take care of themselves.
On a different note, I found some difficulties with the structure of the book. The narration is not organized in chronological order, which made the experiences described in the memoir disconnected and isolated from each other. This also resulted in some confusion concerning the order of events taking place in the author’s life, which caused me to lose track of the narration multiple times. At times, I felt as if I was reading a series of personal essays rather than a memoir. This feeling was enhanced by the presence of information that was irrelevant to the scope of the book, such as the juice recipes included in the chapter “All Juiced Up.”
I found more than ten errors in this memoir. Hence, I do not think that it was professionally edited. An error that recurred throughout the book was the incorrect capitalization of the word “caregiver.” Because words referring to other jobs were not capitalized, I found this rather odd. Due to its frequency, this particular error was quite distracting.
Because of the lack of structure and professional editing, I rate If I Die Before I Wake by Eli Shaw 2 out of 4 stars. I would have happily given the book an additional star if it had been professionally edited. While this memoir presents some problems, I still think it can be a crucial resource for caregivers. It is evident that the author places the dignity of his patients at the very core of his profession and actions, and he is eager to teach others to do the same. However, if you are not a caregiver and are not interested in memoirs, I recommend you steer away from this book.
If I Die Before I Wake
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon