Can a life be told through the moments in which it almost dissolves—almost ceases, indeed, to be a life? Near-death experiences are not unusual. Most lives are riddled with perforations, gaps in the fabric through which we could slip to the other side and yet which we avoid until, at last, we don’t. They are not often recorded, however, or not recorded well, falling easily into cheap clichés.
With stunning language and inventiveness, Maggie O’Farrell, a Northern Irish novelist, unpacks these moments. The result is her memoir, “I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death,” which recounts a sequence of such episodes.