Maggie O'Farrell was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in various locations across Wales and Scotland. When she was just eight she contracted encephalitis, an experience she describes in a chapter called "Cerebellum (1980)" in her memoir, I Am I Am I Am. The illness did long term damage, leaving her physically weak and sometimes unstable, and likely brought on neurological traits of unease, oversensitivity and dissatisfaction.

Despite this major childhood trauma, O'Farrell returned to school and attended Cambridge University, studying English before embarking on a career as a journalist. She published her debut, After You'd Gone, in 2000, and is now the author of seven highly acclaimed novels.

In her memoir, I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death, O'Farrell creates vivid snapshots from her life, based on numerous near-death experiences, but there are only a few references to her successful career as an author. Readers curious to map O'Farrell's literary output to the incidents described in her memoir may find the following chronology of interest:

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