Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
In Hannah's Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived, Maria Housden delivers a lyrical, heartbreaking and heartwarming account of her three-year-old daughter's illness and death. Among the values she learns from her extraordinary child's experience are joy, a Buddha-like stillness, candor and openness. When Hannah's seven-year-old brother asks the author questions about death, Hannah is fascinated and declares that she wants to be a butterfly when her body dies. When their church has a special service to honor and pray for Hannah, she's delighted. Housden, too, offers readers a gift, particularly those seeking to help a loved one through the process of dying and themselves through the grieving process. ( Feb. 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Hannah died in 1994, about a year after she was diagnosed with cancer. She was a joyful person, bright and inquisitive and precocious, and her passing left an enormous hole in the lives of everyone she knew--especially her mother, Maria. Hannah was one month shy of her third birthday when she was diagnosed, and Maria spent the last year of her daughter's life getting as close to her as possible, learning as much as she could about her, discussing life, death, and heaven. This chronicle of Maria's last year with her little girl is heartbreaking--the reader who does not shed a tear while reading it is not human--but it is also uplifting. Hannah was just a child, but she somehow possessed the wisdom and intelligence of someone much older. We feel as though we have had a chance to meet someone special, someone who can help us confront our own mortality. The book is a gift to all of us. --David Pitt
Kirkus Book Review
The mother of a three-year-old who died of cancer tells her story, from dancing delight at a pair of red patent-leather shoes to the last breath at home, surrounded by her family. As Housden remembers it, Hannah was an extraordinary child: bright, exuberant, joyful, unafraid of either life or death. Nor did the doctors who treated her intimidate Hannah, who in the hospital before her first operation insisted that she be allowed to wear the new red shoes to surgery. The doctors submitted. No wimpy Jell-O and mashed potatoes post-op, she commanded; I want pizza. Up came a tray of pizza and chocolate ice cream. Asking for what you want is okay, the author learned from her daughter, and that was only one of the lessons. Another was that telling the truth is the best way to confront fear and pain. Housden tells the truth in this chronicle of Hannah's last year filled with tears, suffering, and anger, but also with laughter, hope, and love. She organizes the lessons from Hannah's life into five sections: Truth, Joy, Faith, Compassion, and Wonder. Each is divided into short chapters, most of them anecdotes about this remarkable little girl's courage and resilience, but also about struggle of her family, including her father and six-year-old brother, to accept Hannah's illness and death. Housden recounts the hospital stays, the tests, the painful, debilitating treatments, from chemotherapy to bone-marrow transplants. But there is also an exhilarating trip to Disney World, where Hannah met Cinderella and crowed to her brother, "You see, Will . . . I told you she was real." Religion and spirituality also play a part; the hard question of how God could let this happen to a child is asked, if not answered. Unsentimental for the most part, this portrait of a short, joyous life can be comforting to anyone who has lost a child.