The Unwinding of the Miracle
Julie Yip-Williams
Contributed by Shemika Thormahlen
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Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
Challenges of Living with Cancer

The main reason why Yip-Williams wrote this book is because of her battle with cancer.  When the author was first diagnosed with colon cancer, she decided to seek guidance and clarity through her past experiences. When she found none, she decided document her journey, developing a chronicle that grows beyond her imagination. During her battle with cancer, she talks about her challenges as a mother and a wife. Cancer brought her reach a point where she could no longer be there for her children when they needed her most; for instance, she could not attend her daughter’s music lessons. Moreover, the author describes the challenges associated with living with a terminal disease — including how she dealt with the pain, jealousy, and hatred. Yip-Williams wants her readers to understand that cancer becomes more aggressive as time goes by. She especially warns people living with cancer to detach themselves from false hopes, but to embrace strong faith and self-belief in fighting the disease.

The Miracle of Life

Throughout the book, the author emphasizes the need to ‘live a life’ while still alive because life is a miracle in itself, and shares her life experiences with her readers to make this point. The author was born blind in a low-income family in Vietnam, and where her grandmother wanted her dead because of her blindness. Her family fled the political upheavals in Vietnam and made it to Hong Kong, and later to the United States where she gained partial eyesight after a successful eye surgery. She later received an education and became a lawyer. She met her husband, Josh and had two daughters. Yip-Williams narrates all these events as a miracle because the odds have always been against her survival. Even though Yip-Williams has cancer, she appreciates having a loving husband and beautiful children, and advises people to live their lives to the fullest because they might never know when the miracle of life will unwind.

Family Secrets and Family Ties

Another theme that is evident in this memoir concerns family ties and secrets. Yip-Williams notes that every family has secrets. For almost thirty years, the author’s parents had kept a secret of how the author survived death when she was born. Her grandmother wanted her dead because she believed Yip-Williams was a disappointment to the family and that she will not be able to marry because of her condition. She ordered her parents to take the author to a herbalist, who would prepare medicine that would make her sleep forever — but survived as the practitioner would perform such a deed. This has forever been a family secret among the Yips, which the author refers to the act as “keeping it in the stomach”; it is believed that keeping secrets is essential in maintaining peace. Yip-Williams’ parents have been raised to obey their elders, so they could do nothing besides complying. Her mother would only reveal this secret ten years after the death of their parents because, otherwise, she would have been scolded.

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