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“The Unwinding of the Miracle”: a memoir for anyone who has been touched by cancer


Book cover of memoir, “The Unwinding of the Miracle” by Julie Yip-Williams

NOTE: Contains discussions about terminal illness.

This is the memoir of the year for me. I know it is a bold statement to make considering it is only March and there are nine more months still to go, but I just loved this memoir by Julie Yip-Williams. This memoir spoke to me on so many levels. Yip-Williams was a mother of two young girls, a wife, a lawyer, an immigrant (with an unbelievable story), and one of those unlucky people who are struck with cancer.

Her memoir is unlike anything I have read. The complete rawness and vulnerability she displays throughout her memoir was confronting, but also a relief to read. There was no pretending to be brave or heroic. Yip-Williams was all those things, but there was no pretense about it. As someone who lost their father to bowel cancer, the same disease that affected Yip-Williams, I felt a relief in reading Yip-Williams angry outbursts at cancer, fate, the gods (all of them!), and the hopelessness of it all. She hates the woman who will become her husband’s new wife. She screams and cries at how unfair it is that she will not see her children grow up. This raw honesty was a force that filled me when I was reading her memoir and it made me feel so much peace to know that I wasn’t the only one who would gladly kill cancer if it ever took corporeal form.

Yip-Williams memoir is a love letter and testimony of her life not just for her husband and children, but for anyone who has list a parent or loved-one to cancer. Her anger brought me strange relief and made me cry for loss of everything all over again. There was a shared experience that made me feel like if Yip-Williams were still alive she would be crying and wanting to throw things right along side with me.

Yip-Williams life, like anyone’s life, is more than the illness that takes them. Yip-Williams harrowing and almost unbelievable story of being born almost blind and escaping death as a baby to then later immigrate from Vietnam to the U.S. is honestly the stuff of Hollywood film plots. Her extraordinary life is a testament to her character, will power, and light that came from within. It is something that you feel in her words throughout her memoir and it is something that has stayed with me long after I finished her memoir.

Her memoir made me cry. A lot. Like, snot monster ugly crying that rips your heart from your chest kinda cry. And I don’t look at this as negative at all. Reading Yip-Williams memoir made me feel less alone. It gave me hope and comfort. It gave me strength to keep living, which is something that Yip-Williams talks about in her memoir: it is those who have to keep on living after someone has died that have to continue the struggle.

Cancer touches everyone in its path. It is something that doesn’t go away after a person has died from the disease. It lingers in the memories and hearts of those left behind. It sneaks into your thoughts before you go to bed and in moments of happiness and sadness cancer is somehow still there to remind you what has been lost. In memoirs like Yip-Williams, however, it shows that cancer is only a small part of who we really are; whether that’s survivor or one of the fallen. Yip-Williams memoir showed me that even after almost eight years without my father I can still miss him so intensely and that the hurt and pain can feel as real as if he died yesterday. Yet her memoir also filled me a great and describable comfort. Her legacy is in her children, her husband, her family, and also in her powerful words.

It is only early days and this is one of my favourite memoirs of 2019. What nonfiction are you loving at the moment? Please let me know if you pick up a copy of Yip-Williams memoir. As always, share the reading love.


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