Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

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Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: The memoir of a gut-wrenchingly sad situation for a young woman to be in, but quite a trial to read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 320 Date: July 2011
Publisher: Two Roads
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444724677

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Natalie Taylor was just twenty four years old, and five months pregnant, when her husband died in a tragic accident. This memoir takes us from the day she found out he was dead through to her son's first birthday. Natalie's situation is horribly sad. I can't even begin to imagine what I would have done in her place. The record of her grieving process is very raw and honest. Based upon her journals that she kept through this time her pain leaps off the page and makes you feel sick inside for the horror she's facing. I liked that she doesn't seem to be advocating a correct way to grieve. She simply states how she felt, how she reacted at each moment, be that calmly and quietly or with raging, screaming tears. Luckily she had an extremely supportive family and a good group of friends and it is interesting - if rather disturbing - to follow her progress as she deals with her life without her husband.

When a book is about someone's real life it's very hard to be critical about it, because Natalie obviously had a truly awful thing happen to her, and has every right to her own grieving process. The trouble is, for quite a lot of the book I have to say that I really didn't like her very much. I tried to excuse her behaviour as being solely down to the fact that she's desperately sad about her husband's death and the emotional turmoil of being pregnant with his son and having to go through everything alone. But quite often she comes across as being very selfish, judgemental and spoilt. This wouldn't be so bad in itself her scorn was directed at people who deserved her it, but unfortunately I felt it was too often directed at her in-laws. She writes about her sister in law, Ashley, a lot and I felt myself cringing inside each time because she's really quite mean about her. I just kept thinking to myself of how awful Ashley would feel if she ever read this book. Even though she revises some of her thoughts about her family towards the end of the book, acknowledging their own grief and the help they've provided her it didn't feel like enough, to me, and I felt I couldn't forgive her bitchiness, no matter what she'd been through emotionally.

She also joins a group for single mothers in the area and, I'm afraid, this was another moment where I felt very uncomfortable. She's immediately very judgemental about everyone else in the group, about their social situations, how they're mostly young, unmarried women and she classes herself above them in every way. I understand that these were her honest, initial thoughts and feelings but again, they seem very unfair and they don't cast her in a flattering light. She later talks about the relationships she builds with these women and her mistakes in making snap judgements, but at the same time there's the sense that she still thinks she's superior to them all.

Through a lot of the book she links her own emotional situation to the texts that she's teaching (she's a high school English teacher) and I found these parts interesting, though sometimes a little bit like a school paper. But it's interesting to see her thought processes surrounding literature and the meanings some texts come to have in her life.

There are moments of humour, which help lift the tone, and I enjoyed her inner imaginary ponderings, the inner conversations she would have with herself. The tone throughout the book is mostly conversational, though occasionally the 'teacher' part of her comes out. For the most part though it feels like her just chatting about her life, how she was feeling and what she was thinking. In one part she talks about her grandparents who were immigrants to America. I would have really liked to read more about them and their story as they sounded like very interesting, funny characters and I felt it was a shame they didn't play a bigger role in the book.

I think this is probably the sort of book you should borrow rather than buy - I can't imagine ever wanting to re-read it. But you should also flick through at the library to be sure it's the kind of book you're looking for. I wouldn't recommend it for those seeking counsel through their own grief. There is also a lot of bad language which I felt was unnecessary. However, if you enjoy these real-life turmoil-filled books then do give it a try. The positive thing I came away with was the renewed awareness of how fragile life is, and how I should always try to make the most of every moment with my family and loved ones.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For a good, fictional read about loss and grief try After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell.

Buy Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor at

Buy Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor at


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