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