Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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)
"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
"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
"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
About 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.