Death-Defying Nina

Rated 5.00/5 based on 7 reviews
A true story about three sisters and a mother of a mid-life crisis. More

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About Lily Salter

Raised in Toronto, Lily Salter received her Masters in Creative Writing from Western Washington University. She’s been a stand-up comic, lead singer for a Los Angeles folk-a-billy band, The Tinsel Tumbleweeds, penned features for Canada’s Movie Entertainment Magazine and is currently working on a rom-com film script. For the past ten years she’s taught at-risk students for programs with the California Department of Corrections and at Cal State Long Beach. Death-Defying Nina is Lily Salter's first full-length non-fiction work.

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Review by: Elayne Zalis on Feb. 13, 2013 :
By publishing Death-Defying Nina: A Memoir, Lily Salter lets other people who are having trouble coping with death and dying know they’re not alone. Sparing readers any sugarcoating, Salter chronicles her sister Nina’s struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS. Gorgeous and adored by all who know her, Nina is a happily married flight attendant in her forties when her motor skills begin to decline. As Salter explains, “With beauty, brains, and wit, she’s a hit. And in our family circus, Nina steals the show.”

Salter tells a tragic but life-affirming story about family and friendship. Besides getting to know Nina and the people who love her, readers also get to know the author, a devoted caretaker and a witness to the decline of her cherished older sister. With life support, Nina defies death for almost five years. Writing helps Salter—who is single, broke, and pushing forty—cope with the mixed feelings she has about her sister’s “slow dance with death.” At times brutally honest, Salter shares her frustration and anger. Ultimately, though, the story pays tribute to Nina, who, Salter claims, has the last laugh.
(reviewed 18 days after purchase)

Review by: Carole Marshall on Dec. 07, 2012 :
Raw and riveting - a brave account of family at its worst and at its best. There’s something eerily comfortable and deeply moving about a family exposed that rattles you to your core, endears you to the players, and sends you to the depths of your own truths. Death-Defying Nina is reality beautifully shared, exquisitely written. Loved this book.
(reviewed 10 days after purchase)

Review by: Laura Joakimson on Nov. 25, 2012 :
“Both Nina and the nation were in decline. Their fates combined read like a logline for a film noir script: a War on Terror has been declared; poison letters, mailed, and a dark-haired dame is in a heap of trouble.”

--Death-Defying Nina

So what happens when a Canadian transplant to Los Angeles who happens to love gardening in her bikini top contracts Lou Gehrig’s disease?

This is not Tuesdays With Morrie. It’s Lily Salter’s dark, poignant tale of three sisters with a head start, as she puts it, in the Tragic Arts, and the relatively slow path of one deadly disease. When the glamor puss of the family, Nina, contracts an incurable illness, an already precarious sibling balance is thrown into disarray.

Salter is the baby of the family, the narrator, a self-hating artist who wishes she could escape her stock character, but instead finds herself stuck, single, falling for bad-news Hollywood cats, waiting tables to make ends meet and biting her tongue when her controlling brother-in-law, the lord and master of Sick House, diagrams the kitchen cupboards just to be sure each spatula makes it back into place each time she cooks up dinner for her sister.

In this noirishly humorous, yet emotional memoir, Salter sketches out her older sister Nina in adoring detail, from a teen, “shaking her skinny hips to Average White Band’s ‘Pick Up the Pieces’” to an airline stewardess and tanned goddess in California. It’s ironic, though, she writes, that if her sister hadn’t contracted ALS disease, she might never have known Nina’s real power. Lou Gherig, an all-American athlete, died just two years after his diagnosis. Thanks to modern technology and an Olympian will to live, Nina holds on much, much longer. But not through saintliness. Nina is human through and through and doesn’t see any reason why illness should force her to give up her perfectionistic standards.

There are too many memorable lines, both funny and sad, for me to quote them all, but I’ll end with this tender one on the pain of not knowing which good-bye will be last, she writes, “Like an athlete, I train my heart to hurt. Strive to make the pain familiar.”
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)

Review by: Shari Anhalt on Sep. 04, 2012 :
This is an amazing read by an honest, fasinating woman. Lily Salter has a gift; she is able to pull the reader in with the characters so much so that it feels you know them, and understand them. Her character development is subtle and at the same time feels like a giant wave hit you due to the intensity of the subject. You will love Nina, and you will love Kelly by the time you are 10 pages in.

Thank you Lily Salter for sharing your story, your pain and your love. I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Matthew Douris on Aug. 25, 2012 :
So emotionally raw and self-revealing as to sometimes make me stop, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. But I could not "close" it until the end.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)

Review by: Paul Douris on Aug. 12, 2012 : (no rating)
I don't think a woman has been so praised since Lolita!! Death-Defying Nina combines the poetic wit and grit of Nabokov with the reflective story telling of Alice Munroe. A trio of sisters as a literary subject can be a stultifying and taxing read (witness Chekhov, King Lear, House of Bernardo Alba etc.) but this book breaks new ground. Imagine Cordelia retelling the story of her sisters and her father. In Death-Defying Nina, Lily Salter has given us an honest account of the dysfunction that plagues and blesses all of us. She is a natural-born story-teller who warms her reader to a situation in which none of us would ever want to find ourselves. If however, we find ourselves in the same situation as the narrator (and the book makes no bones about it - everyone will eventually be there)the author has brought forward those moments and those aspects of character that will help us through it: the stolen laughter over the phone with friend; the needy willingness to accept a hug from a co-worker in the middle of a busy shift; the need to be there for the dying and the need to run away.

I downloaded this book Friday morning and thought I'd read it Friday night. I have spent the weekend with it! The washing-up, the laundry, the hoovering and other weekend excitements have all been put aside as I have spent the last two days reading and re-reading. I may spend next weekend with it too.

Canada has a new maple leaf to shout about!! Well done Lily!! I am sure we are going to be hearing a lot more from you!
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)

Review by: Brenda Eimers on Aug. 10, 2012 :
I ignored my kids and hubby for 2 days because I could not put this book down! (I also read the entire thing on my iPhone an will now need glasses...) It was all worth it. This story made me laugh out loud, it made me misty eyed. I loved the honesty - possibly painful for some, and her bravery in not holding back how she really felt. So many life lessons to be learned from Nina's story through her sister's words.
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)

Review by: Judith (Jude) Klassen on Aug. 09, 2012 :
The Liars Club meets Tuesdays with Morrie meets The Big Sleep. This dame can write!
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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