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The Unwinding of the Miracle summary

Julie Yip-Williams

A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After

4.4 (169 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams is a powerful memoir that takes readers on a journey through the author's life after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Through reflection and contemplation, this book offers a poignant reminder to live in the present.

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    The Unwinding of the Miracle
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    Because Julie Yip-Williams was born blind, her grandmother tried to have her killed.

    Julie Yip-Williams was born into a tumultuous world marked by deep upheaval. The Cold War was raging, and her native Vietnam was the center of its deadliest proxy war. 

    Living in southern Vietnam, Julie’s ethnically Chinese family ended up on the losing side of Vietnam’s civil war. As the violence escalated, they fled from their home in Tam Ky to hide out in the southern capital of Saigon. 

    When Saigon fell to the northern communist forces in 1975, the war ended. Julie’s family returned to Tam Ky. Eight months later, on January 6, 1976, Diep Ly Thanh was born. She’d later be known by her Americanized, married name: Julie Yip-Williams.

    But things weren’t right with baby Julie.

    At four weeks old, she was first held by her grandmother – a powerful, domineering woman who demanded authority and instilled fear. Eyes narrowing, her grandmother noticed an unusual whiteness in Julie’s pupils. She waved a hand over Julie’s face – but the baby’s eyes didn’t follow the movement. Julie had congenital cataracts, and she was blind.

    Summoning Julie’s parents, the grandmother launched into a fierce tirade. Julie would have a miserable and wretched life, unmarriable and unable to care for herself. She wouldn’t contribute anything to the family, financially or domestically, and after their death, she’d have to beg on the streets. And what about the family’s reputation? Gossip would spread that the family was cursed. There was only one sensible decision: give her a potion, which would make her sleep forever.

    For three weeks, Julie’s grandmother kept up these verbal assaults. Eventually, bowing to her tenacity and authority, Julie’s parents caved in. 

    On a bus to Da Nang to visit an herbalist recommended by the grandmother, Julie’s mother clutched her infant tight and sobbed bitterly. Why did she have to do this? Julie was her beautiful baby; this was wrong.

    Her parents entered the herbalist’s house and mumbled their request, eyes fixed on the floor. The herbalist recoiled. He didn’t believe in infanticide – there was no way he would cooperate. Suddenly, Julie’s mother sprang up. She burst into tears, hugged the herbalist and kept repeating, “Thank you; thank you.” She couldn’t contain her joy. 

    Upon their return, Julie’s great-grandmother found out about the attempted infanticide. Outraged, she declared that Julie was not to be harmed, proclaiming, “How she was born is how she will be.” As the ultimate matriarch of the family, the great-grandmother’s word was final. Julie was to live.

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    What is The Unwinding of the Miracle about?

    As a blind child, Julie Yip-Williams escaped from the poverty of war-torn Vietnam to the peaceful abundance of Los Angeles. For most people, this would have been their life’s most remarkable event – but Julie wasn’t destined for a normal life. In her candid memoir, The Unwinding of the Miracle (2019), Julie takes us on an extraordinary journey through her equally extraordinary time on Earth – from her birth and blindness to her world travels and battle with terminal cancer.

    The Unwinding of the Miracle Review

    The Unwinding of the Miracle (2019) is a poignant memoir that takes readers on a journey through life and death, as seen through the eyes of Julie Yip-Williams. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through honest storytelling, it explores themes of hope, love, and resilience, inviting readers to reflect on their own lives and priorities.
    • With its raw emotions and vulnerability, the book provides a genuine portrayal of the human experience and the strength found in embracing the unknown.
    • The author's unique perspective as a Vietnamese refugee, a mother, and a terminally ill person adds depth and significance to her inspiring journey.

    Who should read The Unwinding of the Miracle?

    • Cancer patients feeling alone in their fight
    • Compassionate souls who want to feel another person’s pain
    • Anybody wanting to be told an uncanny tale 

    About the Author

    Julie Yip-Williams was born Diep Ly Thanh in Vietnam and emigrated to the US with her family as a child. She went on to study at Harvard Law School and became a lawyer based in New York City. After being diagnosed with colon cancer, Julie began writing about her battle with her illness and her wider life on an online blog, gathering a large following. She died in 2018.

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    The Unwinding of the Miracle FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Unwinding of the Miracle?

    The main message of The Unwinding of the Miracle is a poignant reflection on life, loss, and finding meaning amidst terminal illness.

    How long does it take to read The Unwinding of the Miracle?

    The reading time for The Unwinding of the Miracle varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Unwinding of the Miracle a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Unwinding of the Miracle is a powerful book that offers profound insights into the human experience and the strength of the human spirit.

    Who is the author of The Unwinding of the Miracle?

    The author of The Unwinding of the Miracle is Julie Yip-Williams.

    What to read after The Unwinding of the Miracle?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Unwinding of the Miracle, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
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