Book Review: This One Wild and Precious Life

by Sarah WilsonDEY STREET
reviewed by Kate Madden Yee

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This One Wild and Precious Life: The Path Back to Connection in a Fractured World
By Sarah Wilson
DEY STREET

In her new book, This One Wild and Precious Life: The Path Back to Connection in a Fractured World, Australian writer Sarah Wilson uses the echo of the Mary Oliver poem “The Summer Day” to invite her readers to live on the edge—that place where things aren’t necessarily easy but “where the truly big, noble, creative and meaningful stuff in life tends to happen for humans.”

Why might we do this? We’re in times that demand it, Wilson notes, and we’re all feeling the chaos in hearts, minds, bodies, spirits. We each face a choice: We can rise to the occasion and confront what’s real, which can be decidedly uncomfortable, or turn away and seek to be soothed.

“We need to step up from our comfortable lull—our acedia—go to our edge and serve,” she urges.

The book blends memoir, poetry, and essay to describe this process of stepping up, tracing its joyful contours as well as its painful ones. Wilson uses her own experiences of waking up to truth to highlight that the path to connection isn’t a side trip, but the point, the human groove from which we’ve gotten derailed. She offers some concrete ideas for cultivating what she calls “anti-fragility”— that quality that allows us to face discomfort, even suffering, with resilience: Delay gratification. Meditate. Be bored. Consume less. Try a dopamine fast by taking a break from media, junk food, and texting.

But mostly Wilson explores why it’s worth it to take the risk and move past the comfortable, assuring her readers that doing this is how we find meaning—and hope.

“In the final wash, coming back to this one wild and precious life has to be more charming than destroying it,” she says. “Once we feel into or exist in beauty, love and hope rush in.”

Read our Book Talk on This One Wild and Precious Life here.

Also, read an excerpt from the book here.