Swimming with Maya: A Mother's Story
by Eleanor Vincent
Mihar Shah

"'Grief is like that,' she reassures me. 'Whatever is unhealed comes up again.'"

Rarely will an author open her heart and reveal her inherent feelings of fear, grief, and ultimately healing for the world to see like Eleanor Vincent. Her memoir will clutch at your heart and, at times, painfully tear at your soul, yet force you to continue reading. Vincent not only describes the horror of seeing her eldest daughter in the hospital, but also reflects on her perceived failures as a mother and the myriad experiences of her own tumultuous upbringing.

Maya is a vivacious nineteen-year-old who has just been admitted on scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles Theater Arts program. After celebrating with her mother and younger sister, Meghan, Maya feels an aura of invincibility. Still on the adrenaline rush from the UCLA news, Maya plans a visit to the Morgan Territory Regional Park. When her friend, Alex, dares her to ride a horse across a field, Maya, ever the daredevil, jumps on the horse, along with another friend, Julie. Within moments, the horse rises on its hind legs, throwing both girls to the ground; however, Maya's head bears the direct impact of the collision.

Swimming with Maya is more than a story about Maya's death. On the contrary, the memoir is a beautiful commemoration of her life. Vincent captures her daughter's life and spirit in a capsule of three-hundred-plus pages, from her days as a favorite of her mother and her boyfriend, Dan, to the responsibility of carrying for her baby sister and watching her get all the attention. Releasing a child into the world is a roller coaster for any parent; Vincent depicts the "acting-up" phase of Maya's life with the same honesty as she portrays their friendship. Much of the backstory provided in the memoir is pivotal to understanding the relationships between Maya and her mother. Moreover, the reader will feel unique closeness to Maya and Eleanor as though he or she is part of their life.

Later in the story, Eleanor will come to grips with her decision to donate her daughter's organs. When she feels the pulsating heart of a Chilean man named Fernando, she is infused with mixed emotions, joy, and grief that help guide her to healing. Swimming with Maya is pure, raw emotion presented with grace, a must read.

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