I wake up with a start. India is screaming. Giant cockroaches are coming to kill her. She’s shaking, her eyes round and huge. I don’t know what she’s talking about. I tell her she’s just having a bad dream. She clutches my arm, pulls me tightly. I tell her she’s okay, that I would never let anything hurt her. I believe this when I say it, but now, I wonder if she must have thought I was a liar.
One Strong Girl is a Mother’s account of what it’s like to outlive her only child. It describes the intensity of loving a dying child and most importantly, the laughter amidst the sorrow. From the moment Lesley learned her daughter, India, was going to die she tried to imagine what it would be like to exist in the world without her. She read everything concerning grief she could find, hoping for answers.
When India did die she instantly understood that there was no way to prepare. For the first time in her life she craved death. Still she felt fearless—after all, what could hurt her? Somewhere in these two incongruities the truth about grief is buried.
The memoir begins five months after India’s death in her dream country, Japan. The homeland of her hero, Hayao Miyazaki, the renowned animator and director. A parent’s pilgrimage to honour what would’ve been their daughter’s seventeenth birthday. With her, Lesley carries glass beads, each containing some of India’s ashes to the landmarks that once filled her imagination.
Later it flashes back to the story of India’s rare illness. At ten, she climbed the highest on the rope at gymnastics, yet by sixteen was so weak she was unable to even dress herself. It follows the six-year fight for answers from the medical community. Finally, after the genetic testing of India’s DNA, it was discovered there were two mutations on her ASAH1 gene, a deadly combination. Today her cells are alive in a research lab at the University Ottawa. This is a legacy that cuts both ways, a point of pride and pain.
One Strong Girl is a tale of transformation that does not stop short when it comes to relating the ugliness of loss. A bold description of what it means to dealwith a sorrow like few others and still pursue laughter, balance and beauty. All in an age steeped in the denial of death. A story of reinvention and hope, that invites readers to think about what loss means to them and what it means to mourn.
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Where to Buy
One Strong Girl can be purchased onlione now, at Indigo Books, and Amazon Books, and after October 31st 2018, in bookstores across Canada.