Summary and book reviews of I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

I Found My Tribe

A Memoir

by Ruth Fitzmaurice

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice X
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
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  • Published:
    Mar 2018, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

A transformative, euphoric memoir about finding solace in the unexpected for readers of H is for Hawk and When Breath Becomes Air.

Ruth's tribe are her lively children and her filmmaker husband Simon who has ALS and can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth's other "tribe" are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and regularly throw themselves into the freezing cold water, just for kicks.

The Tragic Wives' Swimming Club, as they jokingly call themselves, meet to cope with the extreme challenges life puts in their way, not to mention the monster waves rolling over the horizon. Swimming is just one of the daily coping strategies as Ruth fights to preserve the strong but now silent connection with her husband. As she tells the story of their marriage, from diagnosis to their long-standing precarious situation, Ruth also charts her passion for swimming in the wild Irish Sea - culminating in a midnight swim under the full moon on her wedding anniversary.

An invocation to all of us to love as hard as we can, and live even harder, I Found My Tribe is an urgent and uplifting letter to a husband, family, friends, the natural world, and the brightness of life.

Three-year-old Sadie says that Dadda talks with his eyes. An eye gaze computer sounds less romantic. I'll ask his eyes she says when she wants something. He loves me! she exclaims like a surprise present. Love like a present is the gift we share from him. I hold it fiercely. His magnificent heart. My husband is a wonder to me but he is hard to find. I search for him in our home. He breathes through a pipe in his throat. He feels everything but cannot move a muscle. I lie on his chest counting mechanical breaths. I hold his hand but he doesn't hold back. His darting eyes are the only windows left. I won't stop searching. My soul demands it and so does his. Simon has motor neurone disease, but that's not the dilemma, at least not today. Be brave.

I am sitting in my car in Wicklow town, looking out on the harbor. I'm watching these yacht masts dancing. Their heads are swaying to and fro, warbling along to Joni Mitchell on the radio. Wicklow harbor is nice. It...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Consider the memoir's epigraph, "I must be a mermaid, Rango, I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living." What would Ruth consider to be "shallow living"? How does Ruth combat shallow living?
  2. Discuss the members of Ruth's "tribe" and how they support her physically and emotionally. Before Simon's diagnosis, her family was her tribe; she writes: "We knew nobody at first but didn't need anybody. Friends were secondary. We were our own tribe" (49). But as Simon's symptoms worsen, Ruth realizes her tribe needs to grow. They move back to Greystones, and she begins to assemble new members. Her friends, her children, and her cove all become a part of Ruth's tribe. How does each tribe member ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The memoir focuses primarily on Fitzmaurice herself, specifically her internal struggles as she remembers the good times and grieves over what their lives have become and how Simon's illness has impacted their children. I Found My Tribe is a beautiful, haunting work throughout which Fitzmaurice bares her soul. Readers who enjoy memoirs will likely find this a must-read and book groups will discover multiple topics to discuss within its pages.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews

Booklist

A moving and emotional piece of writing, Fitzmaurice's captivating memoir shares her unique experience and invites the reader to realize the strength of love and the support of true friendship.

Kirkus Reviews

An uplifting, life-celebrating memoir written amid extremely difficult circumstances.

Publishers Weekly

Fitzmaurice is a lyrical writer, and her story is intimate and sad but ultimately one of bravery and survival.

The Economist (UK)

A lyrical and moving memoir.

Best Non-Fiction, Good Housekeeping (UK)

A moving memoir of family life, coping with her husband's motor neuron disease and the icy joys of wild sea swimming.

The Sunday Times (UK)

I Found My Tribe is one of the year's most arresting, humbling and acute memoirs. It is a catch-in-the-throat, life-affirming work that you want to gulp down in one and recommend to all your friends. … This debut is set to become a global bestseller.

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Beyond the Book

Eye-Gaze Computers

Ruth Fitzmaurice's husband Simon, who had Motor Neurone Disease, communicated using a type of adaptive technology known as an eye-gaze computer. The author mentions its use as a critical part of their lives throughout her memoir, I Found My Tribe.

Adaptive technology is a subset of assistive technology and while the two terms are often confused, they are different in scope. Assistive technology can be defined as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capacities" of those with a physical impairment. Items such as a large-print book or Bluetooth headset used to hear one's TV at a louder volume fall into this category, and often those who wouldn't consider themselves disabled, rely...

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