The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays by Megan Stielstra

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays

From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way...

Title:The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0062429205
Number of Pages:304 pages

The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays Reviews

  • Carolyn

    I have a lot to say about this but I'll have to come back Monday or Tuesday to do it.

    ETA:

    I WASN'T EXPECTING A MEMOIR. OK, wait, let me backtrack a few... BACK, back back, back in the day when I first moved to Chicago, this cool organization 2nd Story put on a two-week festival in I think the spring (April or May maybe) where every night for two weeks, you could go see four people read/tell a story and get a wine flight (1 wine for each story!) at the same time. I bought tickets for a few nights,

    I have a lot to say about this but I'll have to come back Monday or Tuesday to do it.

    ETA:

    I WASN'T EXPECTING A MEMOIR. OK, wait, let me backtrack a few... BACK, back back, back in the day when I first moved to Chicago, this cool organization 2nd Story put on a two-week festival in I think the spring (April or May maybe) where every night for two weeks, you could go see four people read/tell a story and get a wine flight (1 wine for each story!) at the same time. I bought tickets for a few nights, and went to it a few years in a row, and along the way somewhere somehow I heard Megan tell a story. And then again. And then again. And then 2nd story did a New Year's Eve show, and I heard her tell a story there. There were quite a few, the one I remember most vividly was a story where she went to New Orleans, and then came home to Chicago, but opened her door to find a New Orleans brass band waiting there out front, and not only was Megan there telling the story but there was a DJ who chimed in a brass band right at that moment. It's like storytelling in 3D. It's like having a trumpet player hide outside your classroom door and then start playing right at the right moment in "Ben's Trumpet"...but oops I digress. She's a GREAT writer, but honestly seeing her tell/read a story live is just OUT OF THIS WORLD. She's an amazing performer.

    Anyway, at some point in me attending these and being really enthusiastic about them and dragging everyone I knew to them, I wound up meeting Megan and getting to know her a little bit. We were probably just acquaintances rather than friends except she's the type of person that I don't think lives out in acquaintance realm, when you get to know her, you're in friend realm pretty fast. I had coffee with her once, I met her then-boyfriend or fiance Christopher, I think I even met her dad at one reading, I was someone sort of on the periphery of her life, and thought of her as a superstar storyteller on the periphery of mine.

    But it was turning into a super good time in her life and kind of a crappy one in mine, and gradually I dropped out of that periphery. Nowadays 2nd story hosts events all the time, throughout the year, and in numerous locations, not just one, and I still go occasionally but I don't have the kind of time available now that I did then (Oh MY that was well before my teaching days). And so on anyway, life went on...and the years crawled by....but I still followed her blog and sort of knew what she was up to.

    And a few years later, Megan's first book

    came out and my oh my did I just LOVE IT. I had heard her perform some of the stories and some were new and it was just everything I could ever have possibly imagined as Megan's book. LOVE.

    I lost track of her then or didn't have time to read blogs but somehow I got alerted and was SO excited when her next book

    came out. And I got it. And I started reading it. And WOW, things had changed for Megan. I knew she and Christopher had had a kid, but I didn't know their condo/mortgage situation had gone sour, and I didn't know she'd had post partum depression plus/or followed by a serious back injury, and I didn't know... well, there were lots of things I didn't know, and reading about them versus the stories and the Megan I had known before... I'm not lying to you, people, I had to put down the book. I honestly couldn't keep reading. They were good stories, but they hurt. It hurt to read. It hurt to think about. And whatever was going on for me at that time (who knows but I'm not going to count back right now and figure it out) I just couldn't read about bad, hard things happening to her. So I went to hear her read, (and it was indeed just as good as it had ever been) and I said hi and reintroduced myself, and she signed my book, and then I went on with my life, setting the book aside thinking "Yeah, OK, maybe someday."

    And then NOW, "The Wrong Way to Save Your Life" comes out, and yes while it does have some of the ache and the hurt of "Once I Was Cool" and it doesn't have quite as much of the bounce and the energy of "Everyone Remain Calm", she's a little bit further away from the bad, and I'm a little bit further from the bad in my life, and once I started reading this, I really couldn't put it down. Well, that's not totally true. I couldn't put it down ONCE I got used to its different style and once I realized it was legit really a memoir, and although there are separate stories, they seem more like chapters, and although the chronology doesn't really stick to the decade that introduces that section, the way it loops and spirals around, it keeps you grounded in time.

    I read this book and

    as simultaneously as one person can read two books and while Irby's made me laugh harder, Megan's made me cry harder. While Irby's made me think about who I have been, Megan's made me think about who I could be. It made me cry more than it made me laugh, but it also made me feel fiercely hopeful and determined to be as determined as Megan in fighting for a brighter future for her kid (her actual son) and mine (my students). And what more could you ask from a book really?

    If you want to read a memoir interlaced with stories, read this.

    If you can't handle a memoir right now, and just want to hear really coooool stories, read "Everyone Remain Calm."

    If you want something in between, stories that hit you in the sad spot stories, read "Once I Was Cool".

    And then call me and tell me all your favorite parts and I'll tell you all of mine. Deal?

  • Rachel León

    Oh man, this book.

    The five biggest stars for this brilliant essay collection that is so real, true, and important. It tackles so many issues: motherhood, education, prejudice and white privilege, gun control, happiness, fear, love, writing, the current political climate, etc. etc. Seriously, it's so sharp and raw and the writing is phenomenal. I will definitely be rereading this one several times. I highly recommend this book!

  • Jason Diamond

    The title is a bit misleading because Stielstra's certainly helped me through a rough week. Maybe the book didn't save my life, but it could. I could see it. It's a light in the darkness.

    If everybody put a quarter of the passion, care, and empathy that bleeds out of every single sentence in this book, I feel like the world would be a much better place.

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