A Memoir of Two Illnesses

Guest Post by Kylie Smith.

In Every Last Breath: A Memoir of Two Illnesses, scholar and memoirist Joanne Jacobson strings twelve independently stunning essays together to create a lyrically compressed contemplation of the always frail body.

The essays detail Jacobson’s heart-wrenching experience of discovering her own chronic illness even as she was writing about her mother’s. Both memoir and biography, the book rejects the linear trajectory of conventional narrative to call the reader “out of time” and into the lives of two Jewish-American women as their diseases, one of blood and one of breath, force them to confront “end of life” together.

With the precision of a poet, Jacobson gracefully and honestly explores the ephemerality of time and breath and speaks deeply to the shared human experience of incremental loss. Every Last Breath is a hopeful and hurting reminder that the body is both singly inhabited and commonly shared.


Every Last Breath: A Memoir of Two Illnesses by Joanne Jacobson. The University of Utah Press, 2020.

Reviewer bio: Kylie Smith is a writer based out of Logan, Utah.

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