The Still Point of the Turning World

The Still Point of the Turning World

3.0 17
by Emily Rapp
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan.  He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun.  He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father.  He would be an avid skier like his mother.  Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education.

But

Overview

Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her first and only child, Ronan.  He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, and level-headed, but fun.  He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father.  He would be an avid skier like his mother.  Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education.

But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder.  Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months.  Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about parenting.  They would have to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future.

The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it.  Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to “make my world big”—to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology and myth.  Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child.  In luminous, exquisitely moving prose she re-examines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Sarah Manguso
The "grief memoir" is by now a well-established subgenre of autobiography, the array of recent books about dead loved ones a veritable graveyard. The best of these…aren't just sad stories; they're attempts to write one's way out of the crisis. So it is with Emily Rapp's Still Point of the Turning World, a memoir in which a mother's grief occasions a brilliant study of the wages of mortal love.
Publishers Weekly
Rapp's next work after her memoir about her childhood disability and foot amputation (Poster Child) delineates a bracing, heartbreaking countdown in the life of her terminally ill son. At age nine months, Ronan was diagnosed with Tay-Sachs, a rare, degenerative disease, involving the lack of an enzyme, that is always fatal, striking the parents as a complete surprise, despite the author's having been tested during standard prenatal screening. An affliction most prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, Tay-Sachs actually has more than a hundred mutations. Ronan's "death sentence" was for Rapp and her husband, Rick, living in Santa Fe, a time of grief, reckoning, and learning how to live, and her elegant, restrained work flows with reflections and excerpts from writers and poets like Mary Shelley, Pablo Neruda, and Sylvia Plath, as well as supporters who helped her during the difficult unraveling of her son's condition. Writing about Ronan allowed her to claim the sorrow and truly look at her son the way he was. Her narrative does not follow Ronan as far as his death, but gleans lessons from Buddhism and elsewhere in order that Rapp could "walk through this fire without being consumed by it." Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers. Agent, Dorian Karchmar, William Morris Endeavor (Mar.)
San Francisco Chronicle
Impassioned and searing…Rapp combines an essayist's willingness to lay herself bare on the page, a theologian's search to plumb the mysteries of life and a poet's precision. The result is stunning…It's a circular account, raw and cerebral, raising more questions than it presumes to answer.
The New York Times Book Review
A brilliant study of the wages of mortal love.
Los Angeles Times
Radiant… Emily Rapp is not one to sugarcoat hard truths…Writing is clearly an essential tool for dealing with 'thoughts that put me right at the thinning edge of sanity.' But her memoir is also an indication that this self-proclaimed reformed 'ambition addict' hasn't eschewed all aspirations: Redescribing story, Ronan's story — his path, his myth — could blaze new pathways of understanding not only for me but for others.
Kirkus Reviews
A passionate, potent chronicle of the author's last months with her son. In January 2010, Rapp (Creative Writing and Literature/Santa Fe Univ. of Art and Design; Poster Child: A Memoir, 2007) learned that her firstborn, 9-month-old son, Ronan suffered from Tay-Sachs, a fatal degenerative disease, and would likely die by age 3. The Rapps had been concerned that Ronan's development was retarded; although he was an alert, happy child, he neither walked nor spoke. The author describes her moving struggle to make each day spent with her son memorable and to savor her ability to mother during the time remaining. She also considers her son's disability in light of her own congenital deformity that led to the amputation of her left leg. Though her disability goaded her to overcome all obstacles, such a path did not exist for her son. Her love for Ronan was unconditional and profound and otherworldly. In contrast to the expectations of ordinary parents, she and her son inhabited "a magical world…where there were no goals, no prizes to win, no outcomes to monitor." Despite her tragic loss, Rapp is fierce in her defense of the unique worth of her son's short life. He was "in his own way, perfect," and the author poses the rhetorical question: "We are not what we become, how we look, what we do--are we?" Searching for spiritual solace, Rapp and her husband attended a Buddhist retreat and cherished the words of one of the teachers: "Remember there's a whole person behind whatever physical affect presents itself." A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life.
From the Publisher
"A brilliant study of the wages of mortal love."
—Sarah Manguso, New York Times Book Review

"The Still Point of the Turning World is about the smallest things and the biggest things, the ugliest things and the most beautiful things, the darkest things and the brightest things, but most of all it’s about one very important thing: the way a woman loves a boy who will soon die. Emily Rapp didn’t want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book." 
—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

"Rapp writes with . . .radiant honesty and intelligence, pulling you close, making you care. She searches for solace in literature, religion and friends, joining forces with other "dragon mothers" and find­ing the strength to protect and honor Ronan while preparing to let him go. . . . Rapp fights to redefine the meaning of parenting—and of life itself. Living in the moment is sornething we're told to aim for; she does it, finding profound joy in the pure expression of love."
—Helen Rogan, People (4 star review)

"It's hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World. It's one of those rare books that you want to press into people's hands and simply say, 'You must read this. You will thank me.' At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family's story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us."
—Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club

"Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of Wild author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, Frankenstein and its author, Mary Shelley... Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic."
—Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times, "Faces to Watch in 2013"

"A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Rapp combines an essayist's willingness to lay herself bare on the page, a theologian's search to plumb the mysteries of life and a poet's precision.  The result is stunning . . . Although her subject is extremely sad, her book isn't depressing, because depression is a state of stasis, and Rapp actively investigates her grief, making something meaningful out of it."
—Malena Waltrous, San Francisco Chronicle

"A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Ronan's ‘death sentence’ was for Rapp and her husband, Rick, living in Santa Fe, a time of grief, reckoning, and learning how to live, and her elegant, restrained work flows with reflections and excerpts from writers and poets like Mary Shelley, Pablo Neruda, and Sylvia Plath, as well as supporters who helped her during the difficult unraveling of her son's condition. Writing about Ronan allowed her to claim the sorrow and truly look at her son the way he was... Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This memoir of extraordinary tenderness and grace in the face of unimaginable loss is searingly beautiful in the way of a sacred text.  Emily Rapp certainly didn't sign on to be our guide into the deepest crevasses of the human heart, but that is what she has become.  Of course this is an undeniably sad book, but don't let that stop you.  It is also one of the most powerfully alive books I have ever read.  Every page shouts: This is what it is to love!  To risk!  To lose! To bear witness!  An unforgettable moral and artistic triumph." 
—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion

"Although Rapp avoids sentimentality, her radiant book is steeped in deep feelings. . . . Readers nursing terminal patients of any age can find encouragement in Rapp's savored "still point." Her determination to envelop her son in love, protect him from as much suffering as possible, and then let him go is a protocol as applicable to an Alzheimer's patient as to a sick child."
—Heller McAlpin, Los Angeles Times

"Rapp is a deep and gifted storyteller. . . . [The Still Point of the Turning World] offers us the precise combination of vividness and distance necessary to think through the unthinkable."
—Katie Roiphe, Slate

"Rapp has written a beautiful and passionate elegy for her son, a book that offers deep wisdom for any reader. . . . There are no tidy lessons here, but instead a dark, beautiful sky full of possible constellations of meaning, threads of resonance on the subjects of life, death, healing, illness, friendship, family, grief, and love."
—Buzzy Jackson, Boston Globe

"A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. The Still Point of the Turning World is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying.  This book is Rapp’s, and Ronan’s, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us."
—Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Some Fun

Written with remarkable precision and restraint, Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World takes us to the depths of grief, where almost against our will, heartbreak becomes beautiful.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and Kayak Morning

 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594205125
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
03/07/2013
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Will Schwalbe
It's hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp's THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD. It's one of those rare books that you want to press into people's hands and simply say, "You must read this. You will thank me." At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family's story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us. —Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
Antonya Nelson
A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying. This book is Rapp's, and Ronan's, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us. —Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Some Fun
Cheryl Strayed
THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD is about the smallest things and the biggest things, the ugliest things and the most beautiful things, the darkest things and the brightest things, but most of all it's about one very important thing: the way a woman loves a boy who will soon die. Emily Rapp didn't want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book. —Cheryl Strayed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Wild
Sarah Sentilles
Emily Rapp transforms her particular life situation —being a mother to her son Ronan who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease —into something universal, challenging readers to remember that love is all we ever have. Rapp's words will sear your heart and make you want to be a better parent, sister, partner, friend. Reading her book will change your life. —Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God
From the Publisher
"The Still Point of the Turning World is about the smallest things and the biggest things, the ugliest things and the most beautiful things, the darkest things and the brightest things, but most of all it’s about one very important thing: the way a woman loves a boy who will soon die. Emily Rapp didn’t want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book." 
—Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

"It's hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World. It's one of those rare books that you want to press into people's hands and simply say, 'You must read this. You will thank me.' At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family's story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us."
—Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club

"Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of Wild author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, Frankenstein and its author, Mary Shelley... Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic."
—Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times, "Faces to Watch in 2013"

"A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Ronan's ‘death sentence’ was for Rapp and her husband, Rick, living in Santa Fe, a time of grief, reckoning, and learning how to live, and her elegant, restrained work flows with reflections and excerpts from writers and poets like Mary Shelley, Pablo Neruda, and Sylvia Plath, as well as supporters who helped her during the difficult unraveling of her son's condition. Writing about Ronan allowed her to claim the sorrow and truly look at her son the way he was... Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. The Still Point of the Turning World is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying.  This book is Rapp’s, and Ronan’s, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us."
—Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Some Fun

"This memoir of extraordinary tenderness and grace in the face of unimaginable loss is searingly beautiful in the way of a sacred text.  Emily Rapp certainly didn't sign on to be our guide into the deepest crevasses of the human heart, but that is what she has become.  Of course this is an undeniably sad book, but don't let that stop you.  It is also one of the most powerfully alive books I have ever read.  Every page shouts: This is what it is to love!  To risk!  To lose! To bear witness!  An unforgettable moral and artistic triumph." 
—Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion

“Written with remarkable precision and restraint, Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World takes us to the depths of grief, where almost against our will, heartbreak becomes beautiful.”
—Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and Kayak Morning

"Emily Rapp has written an intimate, compelling and often unexpectedly funny story that speaks to some of the most universal truths of being human. More than just a narrative, this is art, not to mention essential reading."
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“Emily Rapp transforms her particular life situation—being a mother to her son Ronan who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease—into something universal, challenging readers to remember that love is all we ever have. Rapp's words will sear your heart and make you want to be a better parent, sister, partner, friend. Reading her book will change your life.”
—Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God

“Emily Rapp vows not to avert her eyes, and she keeps her promise: to the son she is losing to a rare genetic disease, to her family, and to her readers. The result is a staggeringly brilliant and heartbreaking exploration of love, literature, life, death, and belief. Rapp’s language is as propulsive and beautiful as her grief is brutal, and her intellectual curiosity is insatiable. She asks the hardest questions any human being is ever forced to ask, about how we understand ourselves and our children, how we love and learn to let each other go.  Reading Emily Rapp is like visiting a lush, complicated, inimitable planet. Fly there as fast as you can.”
—Rachel Dewoskin: author of Big Girl Small and Foreign Babes in Beijing

Dani Shapiro
This memoir of extraordinary tenderness and grace in the face of unimaginable loss is searingly beautiful in the way of a sacred text. Emily Rapp certainly didn't sign on to be our guide into the deepest crevasses of the human heart, but that is what she has become. Of course this is an undeniably sad book, but don't let that stop you. It is also one of the most powerfully alive books I have ever read. Every page shouts: This is what it is to love! To risk! To lose!. To bear witness! An unforgettable moral and artistic triumph. —Dani Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of Devotion and Slow Motion
Elizabeth McCracken
I don't know anyone who writes with such clarity and grace about deep sadness and motherlove, about the beauty that is part of the hardest things in life: not transcendent, but quotidian. Rapp's voice is clear-eyed, love-filled, usefully angry, acute, thought-provoking, and tremendously moving. It tries to understand the incomprehensible, to delineate the unimaginable. This is an important book that will mean a great deal to many, many people. —Elizabeth McCracken, author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
Gary Shteyngart
Emily Rapp has written an intimate, compelling and often unexpectedly funny story that speaks to some of the most universal truths of being human. More than just a narrative, this is art, not to mention essential reading. —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
Rachel Dewoskin
Emily Rapp vows not to avert her eyes, and she keeps her promise: to the son she is losing to a rare genetic disease, to her family, and to her readers. The result is a staggeringly brilliant and heartbreaking exploration of love, literature, life, death, and belief. Rapp's language is as propulsive and beautiful as her grief is brutal, and her intellectual curiosity is insatiable. She asks the hardest questions any human being is ever forced to ask, about how we understand ourselves and our children, how we love and learn to let each other go. Reading Emily Rapp is like visiting a lush, complicated, inimitable planet. Fly there as fast as you can. —Rachel Dewoskin author of Big Girl Small and Foreign Babes in Beijing
Roger Rosenblatt
Written with remarkable precision and restraint, Emily Rapp's THE STILL POINT OF THE TURNING WORLD takes us to the depths of grief, where almost against our will, heartbreak becomes beautiful. —Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and Kayak Morning

Meet the Author

A former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Emily Rapp is the author of Poster Child: A Memoir. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award, a James A. Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas-Austin, and the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Bucknell University.  She is currently professor of creative writing and literature at the Santa FeUniversity of Art and Design and a faculty member in the University of California-Riverside MFA Program.  Her writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, and the New York Times.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Still Point of the Turning World 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although not as I expected, the book offers much philosophy and thought provoking references regarding grief, death, and life.  It seemed a bit disjointed at times, but I can understand that happening in the midst of anger and grief.  It portrays the state of Emily's mind trying to take in what has happened to her son.  Emily has been able to live many places and experience many cultures that the rest of us have not.  I had hoped for more content regarding the last months of Ronan's life (September 2011 - February 2013), information on who helped care for Ronan when Emily was traveling, the impact on her relationship with her family, husband, and friends, and students.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book after it was reviewed in People. While I have a huge amount of sympathy for the author, this book said the EXACT SAME THING in almost every chapter. I'm not sure what I expected, but this was disappointing. The book is well written, but the subject matter could have been covered in a magazine article, not a 210 page book.
katiecanes More than 1 year ago
This memoir is a love story in its simplest form--that between a mother and her dying son. It's a love without boundaries or expectations. As Emily Rapp introduces the book, "This is a love story, which, like all great love stories, is ultimately a story of loss." And later, "What was unconditional love if not love that expects nothing in return, especially from a child who was arguably as helpless as Ronan? We made him, we loved him, end of story." Following the journey from Ronan's diagnosis with Tay-Sachs disease at nine months through the year that follows is often heart-wrenching, sometimes uplifting, mostly inspiring, and always honest. The simultaneous joy and pain that Rapp struggles with everyday is heartbreaking, but is the reality she endures. Her writing is a gift to Ronan, her words the beauty that his story deserves. "It is a unique and terrible privilege to witness the entire arc of a life, to see it through from its inception to its end. But it is also an opportunity to love without a net, without the future, without the past, but right now."  She shows the reader what it is really like to be present and to love in time. How the best we can hope for our children is that they know this kind of love. This book will stay with you, as will Ronan's sweet face, long after you finishing reading it. A must-read manifesto of love.
christi46750 More than 1 year ago
Great book. I would suggest that it is a must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Same as the headline. Did not tell how she actually dealt with her son dying. Maybe too personal, but what else was the purpose of the story? To give her philosophy of death? I wanted to know how someone else dealt with their grief and a close, personal, loved one dying. Tragic, but what was the story?
Tennfan65 More than 1 year ago
Very depressing. Did not even finish it.
224perweek More than 1 year ago
This book is full of powerful emotions but it's just not my cup of tea. It very philosophical and religious. I thought it would focus a little more on tay sachs disease then on the parents of Ronan. This story mostly dealt with how the parents were dealing with their son having this disease.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Judy_Sunderland More than 1 year ago
How do you live knowing your baby is going to die and there is nothing that can save him? Emily Rapp simultaneously breaks your heart, comforts you and shares her solution. I bought this book after seeing Ms. Rapp on the Today Show. I wondered how, since she said that her child, Ronan, had died only a few weeks before, could she have this book on shelves. Why write? Because it provided her sanity. She says it herself on page 137, "I've always believed in the power of stories to make life cohere, to create a necessary order around us, and this can, in turn, help us fully live." This story will do just that. Its not a story about dying, it's a story of living, every day a celebration, every day a crisis, always focused on what will be the best way to make Ronan happy, and yet, Emily shares her emotional terror and confusion and makes you see life, and death, in an amazing and new way. It's sad, but not a downer. It's encouraging and not preachy. It's probably one of the best books I've read in years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At times this book was difficult to read but I was glad I did. There is much to be learned from this family's story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I understand that one would expect a good read. But this is an autobiography about grief and loss. The author was not writing to sell, she was writing to make sense of all the chaos in her life. It filled me with tears and I am so glad I read this. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is far more about the author than the child whose tragic death is the pretext for its publication. It is a smorgasbord of arcane literary references and sometimes bewildering personal recollections. At one point the author tells us how her blouse wound up on the floor while she was making out in a car in France. Call me old-fashioned, but I am a stickler for good taste. This is not my cup of tea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nook friend
momoffourRB More than 1 year ago
Was very unhappy with this book. It could have been a magazine article, but when you use five words to describe one word, you can write a book.