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On Living by Kerry Egan

On Living is the second book by Kerry Egan, who is a hospice chaplain and graduate of Harvard Divinity School.  She lives in South Carolina.  This is a very readable, 'unputdownable' book.  For me the first two chapters were slow.  Once the third chapter started, which was the first chapter in which Egan shares one of the stories a former patient told her, I was hooked.

On Living is a series of meditations on various themes in the life humanity lives as seen through the lens of counselling and supporting patients who are terminally ill and their families.  Egan often does not meet these people until they know they are in their final months or weeks and have begun hospice care.  Usually the meditation is predicated on the story or stories shared by specific patients.  These stories serve as a gateway to further meditation on a broader theme, such as salvation and change; identity; that there is kindness in the gray areas of life.

This is also a highly personal work as Egan uses the meditations and her experiences as a hospice chaplain to explore, process, and heal her own personal trauma and brokenness.  Though the stories and experiences are shared by people who happen to be dying, this is not a book about death and dying.  It is a book about life and living, specifically the lives these people have lived.  Egan shares the insight that dying is something people do, it's not who they are.

This is a highly readable, insightful, emotional, and personal book.  The personal stories of both the author and her patients are in turns heartbreaking, healing, and inspiring.  I highly recommend this book.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie

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