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The Still Point of the Turning World

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781444775976

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 30th January 2014

Genre: Health & Personal Development

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With a new chapter detailing the events that have taken place since Ronan’s passing in February 2013.

Like all mothers, Emily Rapp had ambitious plans for her son, Ronan. He would be smart, loyal, physically fearless, level-headed but fun. He would be good at crossword puzzles like his father. He would be an avid skier like his mother. Rapp would speak to him in foreign languages and give him the best education.

But all of these plans changed when Ronan was diagnosed at nine months old with Tay-Sachs disease, a rare and always-fatal degenerative disorder. Ronan was not expected to live beyond the age of three; he would be permanently stalled at a developmental level of six months. Rapp and her husband were forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about raising a family. They would have to learn to live with their child in the moment; to find happiness in the midst of sorrow; to parent without a future.

The Still Point of the Turning World is the story of a mother’s journey through grief and beyond it. Rapp’s response to her son’s diagnosis was a belief that she needed to ‘make my world big’ – to make sense of her family’s situation through art, literature, philosophy, theology and myth. Drawing on a broad range of thinkers and writers, from C.S. Lewis to Sylvia Plath, Hegel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Rapp learns what wisdom there is to be gained from parenting a terminally ill child. In luminous, exquisitely moving prose, she re-examines our most fundamental assumptions about what it means to be a good parent, to be a success, and to live a meaningful life.

Emily Rapp Black’s follow up memoir, Sanctuary, will publish in January 2021.


A brilliant study of the wages of mortal love.
The New York Times
Rapp has written a beautiful and passionate elegy for her son, a book that offers deep wisdom for any reader.
The Boston Globe
A radiant book steeped in deep feelings.
Los Angeles Times
Rapp combines an essayist's willingness to lay herself bare on the page, a theologian's search to plumb the mysteries of life and a poet's precision.
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Still Point of the Turning World begins as a book about a parent's worst fear, a child's death, but it finally becomes a celebration of Ronan's life, a call to action that urges us, its readers, to be fierce in our loves and our lives.
O Magazine
Agonising and sublime, is one of the greatest books I've read about how to love... An unforgettable, soul-gripping book.
The Australian
Rapp writes with such radiant honesty and intelligence, pulling you close, making you care, teaching us to live in the moment-and love deeply.
Who Magazine
Emily Rapp didn't want to tell this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book.
Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of Wild
It's hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World. It's one of those rare books that you want to press into people's hands and simply say, "You must read this. You will thank me." At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family's story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us.
Will Schwalbe, bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
Emily Rapp has written an intimate, compelling and often unexpectedly funny story that speaks to some of the most universal truths of being human. More than just a narrative, this is art, not to mention essential reading.
Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story
Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of Wild author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, Frankenstein and its author, Mary Shelley... Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic.
Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times, 'Faces to Watch in 2013'
Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers.
<i>Publishers Weekly</i> (Starred Review)
A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life.
<i>Kirkus Reviews</i> (starred review)
Brave and magnificently written ... this is a book that's honest and thoughtful, and we find that, like Rapp herself, enduring such heartbreak imbues us with a new sense of wisdom and courage.
Amazon.com Editorial review (Best Book of the Month, March 2013)
On Emily's blog, 'Little Seal': 'There's no shortage of mothers chronicling the exploits of their children online, weighing in on parenting's ups and downs. Emily Rapp is an expert on the latter. In Little Seal, she writes about her son, Ronan, who is 2 1/2 and has Tay-Sachs disease. This isn't your typical mommy blog. Ronan is slowly dying - he can no longer move or see, and he has had a variety of seizures - but you won't find a more lyrical, inspiring blog. Readers can count on Rapp for a jolt of humanity and perspective amid the mundane.'
<i>TIME</i> magazine, 'The 25 Best Blogs of 2012'
A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. The Still Point of the Turning World is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying. This book is Rapp's, and Ronan's, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us.
Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Some Fun
This memoir of extraordinary tenderness and grace in the face of unimaginable loss is searingly beautiful in the way of a sacred text. Emily Rapp certainly didn't sign on to be our guide into the deepest crevasses of the human heart, but that is what she has become. Of course this is an undeniably sad book, but don't let that stop you. It is also one of the most powerfully alive books I have ever read. Every page shouts: This is what it is to love! To risk! To lose! To bear witness! An unforgettable moral and artistic triumph.
Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion and Slow Motion
Written with remarkable precision and restraint, Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World takes us to the depths of grief, where almost against our will, heartbreak becomes beautiful.
Roger Rosenblatt, author of Making Toast and Kayak Morning
Emily Rapp transforms her particular life situation - being a mother to her son Ronan, who is dying of Tay-Sachs disease - into something universal, challenging readers to remember that love is all we ever have. Rapp's words will sear your heart and make you want to be a better parent, sister, partner, friend. Reading her book will change your life.
Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up With God
Emily Rapp vows not to avert her eyes, and she keeps her promise: to the son she is losing to a rare genetic disease, to her family, and to her readers. The result is a staggeringly brilliant and heartbreaking exploration of love, literature, life, death, and belief. Rapp's language is as propulsive and beautiful as her grief is brutal, and her intellectual curiosity is insatiable. She asks the hardest questions any human being is ever forced to ask, about how we understand ourselves and our children, how we love and learn to let each other go. Reading Emily Rapp is like visiting a lush, complicated, inimitable planet. Fly there as fast as you can.
Rachel Dewoskin, author of Big Girl Small and Foreign Babes in Beijing