Ready for Air #Giveaway

Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books managing editor, received a copy of this book to facilitate her review.

As I was reading Ready for Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood, I thought a lot about the idea of taking “a journey through premature motherhood.” Kate Hopper’s first baby was born at 32 weeks after complications due to preeclampsia, so her baby was premature, but her time as a mother was premature as well. The crib wasn’t up, she hadn’t taken her breastfeeding class, she wasn’t expecting a baby for months. My first child was born at 38 weeks (full term, but earlier than that 40 week target). We had literally just happened to assemble her crib the weekend she was born. I wasn’t ready to be a mother either. The first night, I gazed at her in the hospital bassinet pushed right up against my bed, and I couldn’t believe that she was here and she was mine. Driving home from the hospital, I had more of those feelings, thinking I was never going to be alone in my car again. I wasn’t sure I was ready for the responsibility of caring for her.

Motherhood is a journey. We can all relate to the unexpected hills and valleys that motherhood brings us all.

Ready for Air

I love reading memoir. If it’s well-written, the memoirist creates a compelling story, and the narrative nonfiction reads like fiction. This is exactly what happened as I read this book. And I’ll be honest — this is not what I expected. I’ve read enough blogs turned books about motherhood that I expected a collection of essays about the tribulations of pregnancy and premature birth, and the joy of overcoming obstacles, which can still be good stuff, but it’s not something that keeps me glued to my chair. That is not what I got at all. In fact, this is exactly the kind of book which had me stuck on my sofa turning page after page. It wasn’t that I wanted to know how it would end. I was fairly certain (though not 100% sure, I guess) that Stella would leave the NICU and Kate would begin to navigate motherhood at home. But their story drew me in, and I didn’t want to look away.

Ready for Air is a fully formed memoir. I know Kate Hopper tackled the subject of writing motherhood in her previous book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, and has fought the battle that it be considered alongside and equal to any other type of narrative nonfiction, and while I do regard it as genuine memoir, somehow I still went into it with low expectations. I am so glad to be have been wrong. It’s honest, funny, and touching. I’m not recommending this as a “memoir written by someone whose daughter was in NICU.” It’s a book I’ll recommend to people who like memoir.

You may want to know more about what it’s like to have to visit your baby in the hospital after you’ve gone home. You might want to build compassion for those who have gone through something you haven’t (which is what draws me to memoir of things outside of my experiences), but that’s not the only reason to read this book. Anyone who has ever been hospitalized or cared for a loved one in the hospital — which would be almost all of us I assume — will laugh at Kate’s un-filtered thoughts towards some of the medical professionals. Yes, she appreciates what they are doing for her and her daughter, but there are times that she wants to curse them out when they give her a disapproving look or ask her an insensitive question. It’s not how we are supposed to react. We are supposed to honor their medical training and experience and always be compliant and thankful, right? But Kate Hopper isn’t what she’s “supposed to be,” she’s honest. And that’s what makes memoir good.

Enter to win

You will get an extra entry for this if you mark it in the Giveaway Tools widget above: Kate Hopper’s publisher is donating 15 copies to NICU units in the U.S. and Canada. Please read her full post, and follow her instructions over there.


  1. kerrie mayans says

    I like memoirs and this sounds like one that I can relate to so that makes it more interesting for me.

  2. Emily Hedges says

    This is a great review that I agree with completely. That you for articulating why this is a book for anyone who loves great memoir and beautiful, literary writing. Thanks Jennifer!

  3. says

    (This is in response to the comment prompt/question) I love memoir in part for the reason you stated…that it allows us to understand experiences outside of our own. On the flip side, though, I would say that I read memoir also to find connection and validation. No matter how wildly different the writer’s experience is, I’ll be able to find some way to connect and to relate and to nod, yes, I get that, I know how that feels, or, I can imagine that by putting myself in your shoes. When I first tried to pick up Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to her because she was a recovering alcoholic and single mother. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

  4. Amy says

    I am anxious to read this book as another mother who had my baby at 33 weeks due to complications from preeclampsia. My baby spent time in the NICU, too, and now he’s a fairly healthy almost 4-year-old. But I remember not feeling ready for motherhood, feeling like it was thrust upon me when I wasn’t quite yet expecting it, feeling like I went from living my normal life to something beyond explanation overnight. I really want to read this book!

  5. Liz says

    Memoirs are compelling because they offer insight into other people’s thoughts, frequently about topics I might never have considered otherwise.

  6. roger simmons says

    I love memoirs if they are funny/humorous/dramatic and about events and places which I may have heard about but not been born or been there…ie war. However this one would be interesting reading as a way to understand my wife and things that she goes through/went through.

  7. says

    memories are are a great way to remember good and bad things you would like to look back at how you lived your life and if you could’ve changed anything especially in this day in age now with having grandchildren and greatgrandchildren and going into the next generations

  8. Stephanie says

    I’ve not read many memoirs, but this one sounds very fascinating, especially as I just experienced the journey of pregnancy and beginning motherhood.

  9. C says

    Memoirs can be a means of broadening one’s horizons, deepening one’s understanding and compassion (by virtually walking a mile in another person’s shoes) and a means of growing in wisdom (by learning from the mistakes and experiences of others). Reading memoirs can also add perspective and validation to ones’ own experiences.

  10. Shari says

    Memoirs is one of my favorite genres, especially if it’s about a life very different from my own. I love reading about experiences I’ve never had or will never have.

  11. says

    I love reading memoirs because they are the most intimate look into the author’s soul. I find I learn more about the person whose memoir I’m reading than if I read a biography or even an autobiography about them. Memoirs are written events and life occurrences, whereas biographies and autobiographies, although important, are historical and statistical in my opinion. To me, the latter lack the personality and the individuality that memoirs have.

  12. kristin sims says

    nonfiction is all i read, and i love memoirs to see how other people coped and lived through hard times in life….thank you

  13. Brenda Elsner says

    I love reading memoirs. They give me knowledge about other parts of the country(world) and what life was/is like elsewhere.

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