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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
It’s the simple things in life that are the most important. Through trials and tribulations, one can always resort to the sage words of wisdom from great minds like Mahatma Gandhi: “Where there is love there is life.” Growing up in South Africa in the 1980s, Michelle struggled with both her health and her sense of belonging during a difficult time in South African history. Being of East Indian descent, she was neither black nor white. Her frequent asthma attacks and near-death experiences as a child made life complicated on the home front and the tension between her parents mounted, making home life feel almost hostile. Burdened with regret, as a young girl she believed she was responsible for the family’s turmoil, a heartbreaking reality in so many broken families. But, there were some good times, and, as the author admits, “Many unforgettable moments are worth more than a lifetime of memories.” A dream formulated in her mind and heart, a dream that would take her an ocean and a continent away from her family. Her dream was to move to America. Although she achieved her dream, it didn’t come without a lot more hard work and hardship.
Michelle Felix’s memoir, Whole Heart: One woman’s incredible and heartbreaking journey from Africa to America, is a touching, compassionate story about a young woman’s difficult journey. For that’s what life is, a journey full of joy and sorrows, sometimes more one than the other. The author begins her narrative with her ancestry and how her family came to be permanent residents of South Africa but never fitting in because they were neither white nor black. She gives a heart-wrenching tale of the family discord that escalated throughout her growing-up years. Coupled with her multiple near-death experiences due to being born with severe asthma, there were few happy moments in her youth. The author has a powerful command of language, especially in her descriptive narrative which eloquently and sometimes brutally describes the scenes and the situations in this woman’s life. At times, the memoir is vibrantly raw in its harsh revelations of a tragic life. Frequently being hit by unexpected and unhappy events, the author proved her strength and resilience to carry on. This is a powerful story that will encourage others to carry on, despite the odds stacked up against them. Beautiful writing.