Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life

( 5 )

Overview

An unflinching memoir by a working nurse

As a child, Mary Jane Nealon dreams of growing up to become a saint or, failing that, a nurse. She idolizes Clara Barton, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Molly Pitcher, whose biographies she reads and rereads. But by the time she follows her calling to nursing school, her beloved younger brother is diagnosed with cancer, which challenges her to bring hope and healing closer to home. His death leaves her ...

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Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life

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Overview

An unflinching memoir by a working nurse

As a child, Mary Jane Nealon dreams of growing up to become a saint or, failing that, a nurse. She idolizes Clara Barton, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Molly Pitcher, whose biographies she reads and rereads. But by the time she follows her calling to nursing school, her beloved younger brother is diagnosed with cancer, which challenges her to bring hope and healing closer to home. His death leaves her shattered, and she flees into her work, and into poetry.

Beautiful Unbroken details Nealon’s life of caregiving, from her years as a flying nurse, untethered and free to follow friends and jobs from the Southwest to Savannah, to more somber years in New York City, treating men in a homeless shelter on the Bowery and working in the city’s first AIDS wards. In this compelling and revealing memoir, Nealon brings a poet’s sensitivity to bear on the hard truths of disease and recovery, life and death.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With a seasoned nurse's practicality and a poet's skill with words, Nealon (Immaculate Fuel; Rogue Apostle) relates her escape from personal tragedy by treating patients near death—children with cancer, patients with HIV/AIDS—and subsequent healing. Nealon, who lives in Missoula, Mont., contrasts her confidence as a nurse, helping others to transcend suffering, with her failings off the job (e.g., leaving home when her brother was dying; running from her mother's criticism), pointing to epiphanies (forsaking her Laura Ashley wardrobe, leaving a coveted starfish on the beach) that taught her to cast off sadness and led her to pursue poetry, earn an M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College, and care for her parents before they died. Evocatively told, Nealon's stirring story provides insight into the small acts that ease great pain. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews

Poet and Bakeless Prize winner Nealon (Immaculate Fuel, 2004, etc.) poetically writes about her close-knit Irish-American family and her vocation for healing.

As a young girl, after enjoying a biography of Molly Pitcher, the author dreamed of accomplishing great deeds in the medical field. However, she writes, nursing school was actually a default option since her grades would not qualify her for a university scholarship. Tragically, her younger brother which whom she had an extremely close bond was diagnosed with a rare, difficult-to-treat cancer just after her graduation. Rather than seeking a job near her family home in New Jersey, she accepted a nursing job in Virginia because she couldn't face the possibility of her brother's death. Only a year later, when her brother was near death, did she return home. Oppressed by guilt at the carefree life she had been living, Nealon writes about her painful realization that she had failed her family and especially her brother: "I had been in the wrong hospital. I had been at the wrong bedside." Consequently, she took a job nursing young patients who had terminal cancers in the same hospital where her brother lay dying, and this was a turning point in her life. From then on, she was engaged in a search—for reconciliation with her parents and sister, who blamed her for leaving, for a lover who might take her brother's place, and for the spiritual sustenance she derived from nurturing cancer patients, caring for wave of early AIDS patients and treating the homeless.

Simultaneously an elegiac memoir and a sparkling prose-poem.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555975906
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 214
  • Sales rank: 698,148
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Jane Nealon is the winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Immaculate Fuel and Rogue Apostle. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 15, 2011

    A great story, beautifully written.

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Posted November 25, 2012

    could not put this book down. I am a nurse so I could relate to

    could not put this book down. I am a nurse so I could relate to her story. when I got to the part of her parents dying I cried. not many books can make me cry. A book worth reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2011

    good book

    It's a good book, but not what I expected. Because of the subject matter, it weighs very heavy on the heart.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 1, 2011

    Wonderful Book About Life & Nursing

    An unflinching memoir is right. As a nursing student I really wanted to read this and see how nursing could change someone's life. Now I want to give the author a giant hug while also applauding her for following her heart. There is one basic timeline but it's interjected with flashes back and forward, as happens when you are telling a true story. The book covers the time from when the author was a child throughout her nursing career, but most of it does focus on the time she has worked as a nurse. Her story is heart breaking, there is so much loss in her personal life it's amazing to see how it comes to play with her work.

    Reading through all of the different types of nursing jobs that Nealon had was eye opening. I knew there were a lot of various types of careers a nurse can work as, but didn't realize one person could do so many different things. She definitely has had the mentality that she would do whatever job other people weren't doing - such as working with AIDS patients and I can totally relate to that as I'm the student that wants to work with the dead, the traumatized, or the mentally ill (not a big draw with the students in our school). Nealon seems to leave nothing out, no detail is left out and the story feels brutally honest. This isn't a book that shows only the bright side of life and nursing, but shows how it really is.

    Reviewed by Jessica for Book Sake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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