NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • As a young mother facing a terminal diagnosis, Julie Yip-Williams began to write her story, a story like no other. What began as the chronicle of an imminent and early death became something much more—a powerful exhortation to the living.
“An exquisitely moving portrait of the daily stuff of life.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • Real Simple • Good Housekeeping
That Julie Yip-Williams survived infancy was a miracle. Born blind in Vietnam, she narrowly escaped euthanasia at the hands of her grandmother, only to flee with her family the political upheaval of her country in the late 1970s. Loaded into a rickety boat with three hundred other refugees, Julie made it to Hong Kong and, ultimately, America, where a surgeon at UCLA gave her partial sight. She would go on to become a Harvard-educated lawyer, with a husband, a family, and a life she had once assumed would be impossible. Then, at age thirty-seven, with two little girls at home, Julie was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer, and a different journey began.
The Unwinding of the Miracle is the story of a vigorous life refracted through the prism of imminent death. When she was first diagnosed, Julie Yip-Williams sought clarity and guidance through the experience and, finding none, began to write her way through it—a chronicle that grew beyond her imagining. Motherhood, marriage, the immigrant experience, ambition, love, wanderlust, tennis, fortune-tellers, grief, reincarnation, jealousy, comfort, pain, the marvel of the body in full rebellion—this book is as sprawling and majestic as the life it records. It is inspiring and instructive, delightful and shattering. It is a book of indelible moments, seared deep—an incomparable guide to living vividly by facing hard truths consciously.
With humor, bracing honesty, and the cleansing power of well-deployed anger, Julie Yip-Williams set the stage for her lasting legacy and one final miracle: the story of her life.
Praise for The Unwinding of the Miracle
“Everything worth understanding and holding on to is in this book. . . . A miracle indeed.”—Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author
“A beautifully written, moving, and compassionate chronicle that deserves to be read and absorbed widely.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Julie Yip-Williams’ life story was intense before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 37. So she started a blog about living while dying, looking back at her childhood experiences as a refugee from Vietnam, her struggles with blindness, and her path to graduating from Harvard Law. Bringing together Yip-Williams’ writing from her final five years, The Unwinding of the Miracle bears witness to her sadness and anger, as well as her tender feelings for her young children. Though she never claimed to be at peace with death, Yip-Williams’ book is a parting gift that left us in awe of the depths of human strength.
When lawyer Yip-Williams was diagnosed with stage-IV colon cancer at the age of 37 in 2013, she decided to write her story, which resulted in this inspiring and remarkable work that chronicles her immigration to the U.S. and her final five years. Born in Vietnam with congenital cataracts, Yip-Williams writes that her grandmother who deemed her a burden to the family had found an herbalist she hoped would administer a potion to put the infant to "sleep forever." He refused, and Yip-Williams's ethnic Chinese family later moved to Hong Kong, where a Catholic charity sponsored their relocation to California, where Yip-Williams was raised and underwent corrective eye surgery. She attended Harvard Law School, joined a firm where she met her husband, moved to Brooklyn, and had two children. After her diagnosis, she was determined to make the most of the time left (she died in March 2018), and to leave a written legacy for her daughters. Yip-Williams faced cancer head on, with "brutal honesty," anger, humor, and resolve. Planning her death, she made Costco runs, traveled to the Galapagos Islands, found a child psychologist for her daughters ages six and eight, and even joked about her husband getting a "Slutty Second Wife." Yip-Williams's wise and moving account of her battle with cancer is an extraordinary call to live wholeheartedly.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Unwinding of the Miracle
I started this book the day before I had a routine colonoscopy not knowing what the book was about. This story actually held me keep it together through the procedure and another one six days later to remove a large benign growth. A remarkable and inspiring story. RIP, Julie.
I learned a lot reading this book. I wish I had it before my own dad passed away from Stage IV colon cancer. Although my dad was 77 when diagnosed, he only lived 7 months after that. None the less, no matter what age it is still very difficult for the patient and for all those around that patient. I laughed and I cried cause many things reminded me of symptoms and situations we went through with my dad. To say that I’m not an avid reader is an understatement but I finished this book in 4 days! I really fell in love with it!! This book captivated me from start to finish! Thank you for the honesty! And for this book!!
Not for me
Could only get 8% through this book.
I feel for what she’s going through, but this should have been kept between her and her girls who are in the position to appreciate it.
It’s like hearing someone else’s family stories - they just don’t mean as much if you’re not in the family.
I almost felt obligated to continue reading just to show I’m not a cold hearted monster in the face of her struggles.... but I couldn’t do it.