5 Star reviews for this “Blisteringly Beautiful” book.
(“Blisteringly Beautiful” was quoted by Robin Anker-Petersen, Director of Healing for St. Andrews Episcopal Diocese).
These reviews are taken from Amazon, Goodreads, Google Books, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble amongst others.
I am now on my second reading of The Grace Of A Nightingale, and I am in no doubt that I shall return to it again and again. Such has been its impact and influence on me, that I realise I have been waiting for this book to be written for a very long time.
The Grace Of A Nightingale is at first a bracingly candid memoir. In reading about the shocking, abusive and life threatening events that unfolded in Mary Anne’s life; I felt sometimes overwhelmed and had to take a break from reading it. Yet as I continued reading, I began to recognise in the author a formidable strength of character and ability to overcome suffering and pain. Mary Anne shows a real capacity to forgive and to empathise with those who hurt her, and thus to offer inspiration to the reader. And she shares her emotions generously. Seldom have I read a book where I have been in tears one minute, angry another, then laughing the next.
Mary Anne’s debut book is a journey of self-discovery. In the preface she invites us to accompany her through the landscape of her life. She says; “I will carefully guide you through the rubble into places where there is hope, love, beauty, joy and a deep soulful equanimity”. And she does this. Whilst the details may be hard to take at times, this is certainly not a ‘misery memoir’. There is no self-pity or over dramatisation. Nor does the book preach, but it is written honestly.
The style of her writing is free flow, which is a powerful and eloquent way of helping both the author and readers to see things from new perspectives. The detail is rich and expressive, and the narrative is illuminated by the use of carefully chosen quotations, insightful readings and poetry.
The expressive way in which Mary Anne uses metaphor in her writing transported me to situations in my own life that were devastating and painful, and the memories are still very raw. But there is eventual comfort and reassurance in knowing that it is possible to endure such adversity and heartache, and yet still emerge stronger and more self-aware. As Mary Anne herself quotes from William Nicholson (Shadowlands), “We read to know we are not alone”.
Like other readers, I have found the overriding messages of The Grace of a Nightingale to be ones of courage and hope. Images left with me are built on kindness, tenderness, forgiveness, trust – and an unwavering belief in true friendship and love.
The Grace Of A Nightingale is a relevant and important book, a loving gift for humanity. It really does honour and encourage the reader in their search for healing and love.
How can we make the best of our lives? What makes us choose the paths we do? Where does resilience come from and what does it look like? Anyone with an interest in these questions can learn from this inspiring chronicle of one young woman’s escape from poverty, violence and abuse into senior public sector leadership. The Grace of a Nightingale is also book for anyone feeling stuck or assailed by difficulties, for those who feel the odds are stacked against them because of where they have started in life or defeated and exhausted by illness or injustice. Mary Anne’s story is simply written with good humour and generosity. Readers will want to know what happened next as she tells her story and shows us how it is possible to learn from your most difficult experiences, to notice that you have different aspirations to those around you, to see and seize opportunity, and to step by step, determine your own future and become able to act in the world in a way which is powerful, independent and truthful.
Nightingale is also a book for those who seek to walk beside young people living with disadvantage, the sick and the troubled. This is because Mary Anne is careful to pick out the people and organisations whose support helped her endure and grow, from the Samaritans, to nursing colleagues, other people’s mothers and faith leaders. Her story describes what support mattered most when and why and is an encouragement to everyone who would seek to help others get through tough times.
Nightingale is also a fabulous reminder that there is always more to the people we encounter than first meets the eye.
Mary-Anne’s life shared as words of art, took me into a world where pain and beauty lay side-by-side. Her story was raw and truthful and beautiful – she didn’t hold back from taking us into her real world – our world where suffering and love, shame and courage co-exist, often presenting themselves simultaneously. The Grace of a Nightingale teaches us that in moments of pain and suffering, there is always Grace and something to hope for.
This gripping memoir follows Mary Anne Willow’s life through unimaginable difficulties. If I mention domestic violence, sexual abuse, alcoholism and child grooming, you might not want to read on, but the times of great sadness are interspersed with moments of real joy. This joy, bringing the expectation of a better future, was made possible by the many supporters who have helped Mary Anne on the way. These are her ‘mat carriers’, giving her resilience and self-belief, allowing her to emerge whole and happy from the maelstrom of her life. Today she still endures debilitating physical distress, but she has also found love and hope and peace.
From the outset, Mary Anne’s imagination was her rock: the frightened child created a safe place in her mind where nature was a soothing presence, with rivers and streams, mountains and trees as trustworthy companions. Psychotherapists recommend to their clients the creation of a psychologically safe place, somewhere they can go when traumatic memories become too much to bear.
Mary Anne’s journey offers us hope. We can learn to understand ourselves and our behaviours, to respect and accept our needs. By discovering our truth, we too can make choices for our good and the world.
Dr Evleen Mann, MB.BS, MSc, PGDip
I got this memoir as an advance reading copy from the publisher but I would have bought it anyway. Thought-provoking, sad, and uplifting at the same time. I don’t know how the author managed it but she dug deep within her soul to write the story.
This book will challenge stereotypes and reveal what we could, as a society do to help children who were subtly abused as children.
Her family life was dysfunctional but she was strong even though she didn’t know it at that time. The author faced all the negative experiences in her life with a stoic resolve. The book is easy to read because the author is a fluid writer but sometimes it’s difficult to read, due to the continuous suffering but that is to be expected I guess. Life is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What permeate through her book were the quotes which added to the story she was telling. I can go on and on and I hope when people read this woman’s story, they’ll see mirror of themselves, and know that there is hope.
A worthy book! I’ll read it again.
Putting aside the fact this is a true account of The author’s life, a fantastic read from start to finish, A beautifully written and gripping memoir that I just couldn’t put down. I read it in three days.
This is a book that stirs every conceivable human emotion and leaves you feeling humbled knowing what one person has had to endure in her lifetime.
Strength, perseverance, courage, belief, faith and love are the phenomenal traits displayed in abundance by a remarkable woman who faced so many tragedies that were coupled with personal grief.
Being able to write this book Spanning five decades is incredible. Considering the mental anguish it must have caused reliving so many dark days it is testament to the courage and strength of the author and hopefully it brings her deserved peace and tranquility. She never once played out as a victim but showed understanding, forgiveness and compassion to the people who caused her so much pain.
A fantastic, inspiring and powerful book so beautifully written.
I really didn’t expect it, but this book is definitely my book of the year so far. The writing is beautiful and heartfelt, and it has such a strong message of hope and love.
Be under no illusion though, there are very dark moments throughout Mary Anne’s life and some of it is hard to read. But it’s how she triumphs over these adversities which is, for me, truly remarkable. To cope with child abuse, parental alcoholism and suicide, mental abuse and almost dying from complications from a medical procedure – and then still finding love, happiness and a fulfilled life is a testament to Mary Anne’s strength of character.
So, if you, your family or friends have ever faced dark moments or tragedy, this book offers real glimpses of light, hope and the possibility of a better future. As the author says herself, “knowing yourself changes everything”. I couldn’t agree more.
The Grace of a Nightingale . . . . I love this book!
What a wonderful book this is!
It is a story of hope and courage and of keeping on going whatever life throws at you. Mary Anne has known the agony of life as well as the ecstasy and has told her story in a way that readers can connect to even if their experiences have not been as painful or difficult as hers. To read The Grace of a Nightingale is to enter into the life of a woman who inspires the reader to learn from her triumph over tragedy. To read this book is to be enriched and encouraged that it is possible for courage and hope to overcome cruelty, despair, grief, bewilderment and deep disappointments. It also describes beautifully how the support of others, both human and animal helps us through the hard times. This is woven together with Mary Anne’s faith and trust in the power, goodness and love of the Lifegiver.
I highly recommend the reading of this inspirational book
Not a book to rush; it is rich in detail. Avoiding the obvious traps of cliche, self-pity and over dramatising, Mary Anne bears incredible witness to her zig-zagging life story.
Written from an objective, yet spiritual heart, this is a story worth taking time over and pondering on. Low level repetition serves as a device to demonstrate the continuum of deep wounds and to inform the narrative. Peppered with timely quotes and a rich vocabulary which enhance the story and give pause for thought.
A brave, yet vulnerable soul, she deserves nothing but our admiration and praise for sharing.
I’ve read lots of books from many genres but not one like this. Its unique and inspirational.
The first read was so compelling I had to read it a second time to appreciate the many depths to Mary Anne’s storytelling. There are many life lessons which not only reveal her wisdom but also how we grow from our failures and mistakes. Its a book for everyone.
Memoir Follower UK
I seldom read memoirs, but this book has been such an easy and compelling read due to her simple and beautiful way of narrating events, which were mostly gruesome and heart breaking with an underlying shade of hope.
The narrative’s structure is quite straightforward, events are described concisely and accurately. While reading this book I really appreciated that she focused on events rather than long descriptive moments.
In terms of content, where do I even begin? This story is full of heartfelt and discouraging scenes. She had to endure from an early age so many hardships that I would not have bore it if the end did not shed some light over it all. While reading it, I was constantly expecting and hoping things would turn around better, at some moments it did and then it just got dark again.
The fact that she has overcome physical and psychological abuse once and once again, from within her inner circle as from outsiders, who had proven sexual predators willing to steal her innocence, had inflicted upon her invisible scars that accompany her all along. Moreover, after two marriages devoid of love and not many trusting friends she still manages to move on and find peace in her surroundings. The way in which she describes her connection with nature and the animals she adopts are the first trait of hope and salvation.
Finally, after overcoming a near-death experience and a long-lasting health condition Mary Anne finds love, she talks of old souls reuniting, at last, inferring her belief in God’s plans for everyone.
Alongside her life journey, her belief in God enabled her to forgive those who hurt her the most and reconcile with those aspects of life which are inevitably tough and disgraceful. Most of her life she suffered from an identity crisis but at last, her struggle to see herself fit to be loved has been rewarded. So, in a life full of abuse, hardships, anguish and isolation she trusted an inner voice telling her things would get better, all embodied in the extended metaphor of the Nightingale. What an inspirational read.
This memoir is thought-provoking, sad, and uplifting at the same time. I don’t know how the author managed it but she dug deep within her soul to write the story. This book will challenge stereotypes and reveal what we could, as a society do to help children who were subtly abused as children.
Her family life was dysfunctional, but she was strong even though she didn’t know it. The author faced all the negative experiences in her life with a stoic resolve. The book is easy to read because the author is a fluid writer but sometimes it’s difficult to read, due to the continuous suffering but that is to be expected I guess. Life is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What permeates through her book were the quotes which added to the story she was telling. I can go on and on and I hope when people read this woman’s story, they’ll see a mirror of themselves, and know that there is hope.
A worthy book! I’ll read it again.
I read this book a couple of months ago and “loved” it, if you can “love” such a troubled and turbulent tale. I felt it deserved a more considered read, so have elected to read it aloud to my other half. This was a smart move as the enforced slower pace of reading aloud does more justice to the depth of the telling. It allows each detail to settle and builds the story session by session (usually splitting chapters into several, smaller, pieces). Hearing it out loud also teases out more of the reality of the issues it explores. Many of the situations encountered have stimulated conversation and reflection between my husband and I, taking us away from the normal topics of conversation.
I think it would make an ideal piece for group discussion, for both general book groups and more specific gatherings (eg victim support). There are many hurdles along the way, but always a sense of hope and inner strength in spite of the adversities. I don’t think we’ve heard the last from Mary Anne, I do hope so.
I have had the enriching and joyful privilege of knowing Mary Anne Willow for many years.
In her book she is able to share her story in a manner that reveals she has personally experienced the truth of the quote from Gerard W. Hughes that she uses in her book, “Our treasure lies hidden in the inner life which results from that experience.” I am a spiritual director and retreat facilitator. I will be recommending her book to people I companion in ministry.
As I’ve grown older I become more and more grateful from my stable loving childhood. This book tells of a life that should have been like mine but wasn’t, a childhood that had to be endured rather than carefree. It tells of how this effected the writer for the rest of her life. It also tells of so much more. At times I was reading so fast wanting to reach the fairy tale ending and thankfully that is just what I found!
There is a religious theme which doesn’t resonated with me but i think I understand that spirituality is a broad church!
Give this a go you won’t regret it.
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