Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life

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Graywolf Press, Jul 19, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 224 pages

An unflinching memoir by a working nurse

As a child, Mary Jane Nealon dreams of growing up to become a saint or, failing that, a nurse. She idolizes Clara Barton, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Molly Pitcher, whose biographies she reads and rereads. But by the time she follows her calling to nursing school, her beloved younger brother is diagnosed with cancer, which challenges her to bring hope and healing closer to home. His death leaves her shattered, and she flees into her work, and into poetry.

Beautiful Unbroken details Nealon's life of caregiving, from her years as a flying nurse, untethered and free to follow friends and jobs from the Southwest to Savannah, to more somber years in New York City, treating men in a homeless shelter on the Bowery and working in the city's first AIDS wards. In this compelling and revealing memoir, Nealon brings a poet's sensitivity to bear on the hard truths of disease and recovery, life and death.


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Beautiful Unbroken: One Nurse's Life

User Review  - Staff - Book Verdict

Poet-nurse Nealon, winner of the 2010 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction, offers a retrospective of her nursing career. Leaving home briefly while her family grapples with ... Read full review


User Review  - Kirkus

Poet and Bakeless Prize winner Nealon (Immaculate Fuel, 2004, etc.) poetically writes about her close-knit Irish-American family and her vocation for healing.As a young girl, after enjoying a ... Read full review


Where It Began
My Brothers Accidents
Grief and Escape
Poetry and Escape
There Is No Escape
Private Duty
Love a Soldier
Learn Everything in One
Everyone May Be Lost
A Kind of Miracle
The Homeless

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About the author (2011)

Mary Jane Nealon is the winner of the 2010 Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction. She is the author of two collections of poetry, Immaculate Fuel and Rogue Apostle. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

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