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Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe [Paperback]

Alexa Stevenson

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Book Description

Aug. 10 2010
Author Alexa Stevenson had spent most of her life preparing for the wrong disasters. When her daughter is born 15 weeks early, she is plunged into the strange half-light of the Newborn Intensive Care Unit, where she learns the Zen of medical uncertainty and makes the surprising discovery that a worst-case scenario may just be the best thing that's ever happened to her. The absurdities of the medical system, grappling with mortality, and coming into one's own are all explored inthis wryly heartfelt memoir.From the indignities of infertility treatments to managing bedrest and parenting a preemie (how does one wrangle an oxygen tank while changing a diaper?), Alexa recounts her rocky road to motherhood with a uniquely sharp, funny, yet poignant voice.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (Aug. 10 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762439467
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762439461
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #519,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Elizabeth McCracken, author of An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and The Giant’s House
Alexa Stevenson's Half Baked is one of the best memoirs I've read in years: it's unbelievably sad and funny about some of the saddest, scariest things in the world. A book about love and worry, honesty and denial, beautifully written. Though she’s original, her work reminds me of Calvin Trillin’s, in the depth of its comedy and its generosity of spirit. Serious and hilarious, endearing and biting. Alexa Stevenson is the real thing.

A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All
"This is a book for all those who have had kids, or plan to have kids, or who ever were a kid themselves at one point. What I’m trying to say is: it’s for everyone. It’s that lovely. Other adjectives that come to mind: Funny, moving and beautiful."
 
Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/8/10
“Harrowing in drama but crackling with wit, the tone of the book -- like the tone of the blog it is based on -- is pragmatism meets poignant acceptance. It is, perhaps, the most unsentimental weeper you'll read this summer.”   
 
St Paul Pioneer Press8/9/10
“…snarky, often-funny and always-honest… Besides telling a compelling story, Stevenson gives readers a writing tour de force...If you want to be treated to a memoir that's close to perfect, read HALF BAKED.”   
 
Iowa Press-Citizen 8/9/10
“…the 299-page memoir has something to offer anyone who is trying not to take personally what the impersonal universe throws her way.”
 
Daily Mail (UK) 8/27/10
"The old-fashioned word for this hard-won acceptance of an unkind fate is grace; but Stevenson gives the ancient virtue a very modern twist in this memoir.
Sassy, funny, incurably neurotic, she writes about love and grief in a headlong style that alternately breaks your heart and makes you laugh out loud." 
 
Boston Globe, 8/27/10
“[HALF BAKED] is sad and inspiring and shocking and funny, sometimes all at once. Stevenson shares a considerable amount of detail about her experiences, but her smart, appealing voice, knack for pacing, and unsentimental insights make for a gripping read. You won’t find a single cliche or sanctimonious line in this book, a rather remarkable feat for a memoir of motherhood.”
 
Tucson Citizen, 8/31/10
“…beautifully written and moving…HALF BAKED is an uniquely satisfying mix of humor, intelligence, and inspiration.” 
 
San Francisco Chronicle, 9/26/10
The story of what the author calls her zombie movie pregnancy, where practically everything that can go wrong does.  Hysterical and heartbreaking all in the same breath.

Library Journal
, 10/7/10
A much-wanted pregnancy gone tragically awry is almost too painful to read, but Stevenson's appealing voice and her transformation from neurotic worrywart to competent mother and advocate for her extremely premature daughter carry readers through her tears, laughter, IVs, and grotesque medical procedures. Entering the Neonatal ICU with her micro premie, Simone, while grieving the in utero death of Simone's twin brother, the normally anxious Stevenson is forced to get over herself. She would never call herself heroic, but it's OK if we do.
 
What I'm Telling My Friends: Stevenson's descriptions of Simone's struggles may cause you to get teary, but it is fabulous to read a book where someone grows up and turns into a better person as a result of a terrible experience.

About the Author

Alexa Stevenson is author of the popular blog Flotsam, where she writes about everything from parenting to procrastination with a trenchant wit that has earned her a devoted following. Flotsam has won praise from Jezebel, the California National Organization for Women, and the London Sunday Times, and has readers spanning dozens of countries and all 50 states. Alexa has also written for Wondertime Magazine and been a commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. She lives in St. Paul, MN.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  60 reviews
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An introspective and often irreverent memoir, truly touching June 8 2010
By A. Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I'm a sucker for a memoir, so the moment this one arrived in my house I put down everything else and curled up with it. I couldn't stay that way - somebody has to take the kid to the dentist's office, after all - but I gave it every minute I could until I finished, moments ago. Alexa Stevenson's book is absolutely gripping. Funny? I laughed, a lot. Heartbreaking? I cried, ditto. Heartwarming? Stevenson feels like my sister, my new best friend. Such is the illusion of intimacy created by a well-written memoir...and *this* is a well-written memoir. She's got a knack for a striking turn of phrase that bypasses the "cliche guard" center of the brain and makes everything seem vivid and immediate. It doesn't feel like she's writing for the masses (of which I'm but one). It feels like she sat down with me and told me her story herself.

It's quite a story. Stevenson takes us through defining her infertility, tackling it, and coping with the difficult pregnancy and premature birth that follow. Through the (literally) dark days of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she shares the process of finishing the baking (to borrow her metaphor) as her micropreemie matures.

One of Stevenson's strengths as a writer, and I rather suspect as a person, is her unflinching self-reflection. She does not sugarcoat her story. While she may, like all good writers, pick and choose her details in crafting her tale, she does not paint herself as the tragic heroine or even the plucky survivor. Some of her story presents her in a good light, some is considerably less flattering, but it combines to make her feel human and real.

Another of her key characteristics is her irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes the book is as grim as the situations that inspired it, but Stevenson's ability to laugh seems irrepressible. It inevitably resurfaces. She is not afraid to poke at sacred cows, and she can find funny in some pretty dark places. I suspect, honestly, that this may challenge some readers. If the ability to laugh while hurting is not one you share (or at least admire), you might want to find a more somber memoir. For me, I found it delightful. I've chuckled my way through a number of tragedies in my own life, and it was just one more way I felt connected to her. And in my opinion Stevenson never crosses the line. Her humor may be irreverent at times, but it always has heart.

There is nothing half baked about Stevenson's book. It's a well-crafted work of non-fiction. She draws her readers in with evocative prose, balances tears and laughter, teaches and touches. I recommend.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pulls no punches here June 24 2010
By M. Garrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This memoir is about the author's experience with her complicated pregnancy, early delivery, and then life with a 25-week micropreemie -- first the harrowing months in the NICU with the roller coaster ups and downs, and then the equally challenging transition to life at home without constant medical support. I found it really eye-opening in a lot of ways, but here are some of the things I liked best:

* She makes it ok to laugh at some of the ridiculousness and high drama of it all.

* She does a great job of showing how personality differences affected how people coped with the constant fear a NICU can bring. She admits upfront that she had a lot of anxiety about everything before this ever happened, and had often coped by over-researching (nice to know I'm not the only one!), but you also get to see other people handling it in different ways. There are too many books out there where it seems like the author is insisting that their emotional reaction is the only valid one, and that's fortunately not the case here.

* You really get to see the bond and relationships that develop with the different nurses and doctors, and how some of those relationships are much smoother than others.

* She talks about what's going on in the medical sense without getting bogged down in all the clinical and technical details.

Definitely a book I'd recommend -- although probably *not* to anyone currently pregnant or dealing with a more run-of-the-mill, short and uncomplicated NICU stay.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely, without reservations, fantastic! June 25 2010
By Suzanne Amara - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
When I first read the back of this book and saw the glowing words of review, I thought "That sounds a little overhyped". It only took me about a minute of reading to say "They might not be" and by the end of this wonderful memoir, I was in total, complete agreement with them. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and I've read plenty.

The basic story---Alexa Stevenson goes through infertility treatment, gets pregnant with twins, a boy and a girl. The boys dies during the pregnancy, and the girl, Simone, is born at 25 weeks. This is the story of the pregnancy, NICU stay and first few months at home. It's a story that's been done a lot, but not like this. The best thing about the writing is how funny it is. You wouldn't think there'd be much humor in this situation, but there is, and I was laughing my head off over and over during my reading. There are also many amazing phrases and insights. I often do the evil thing of folding over a page to remember the best parts of a book, and this book is all folded up. A few examples...my favorite---Alexa's reaction to people who say "I could never do what you did". I HATE that. I get it a lot, as I have a low-functioning autistic daughter. The answer is, as Alexa says, of course you could and would. What choice do you have? I loved her honesty about anger she felt at nasty nurses, and her extreme love of nice nurses. I've been there---my older son is almost 16 now, but a few remarks made by jerky doctors or nurses while he was in the NICU still are fresh and still can make me furious. Her great line "I prepared for the wrong thing. I didn't prepare for this". She is a worrier, a tribe I also belong to, and I know just what she means. You prepare through research and reading for all kinds of scary things, and then the thing that comes along is something totally different. And since she is like me, a believer in jinxes, of course that makes it all somewhat your fault.

All I can say in conclusion is READ THIS! If you have a child that was in the NICU, if you had a difficult pregnancy, if you have a child with special medical needs, or if you just like to read very well written memoirs, READ THIS!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book! Sept. 13 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't normally read memoirs, but as I had been following Alexa Stevenson online for several years, I was looking forward to her book. She is an amazing writer -- very witty and slyly poignant. She tells the sometimes very hard-to-hear story of her stillborn son and premature daughter without ever becoming maudlin or slipping into self-pity. This insider's look into the world of the NICU is fascinating, and I hope it reaches a wide audience. Alexa's story is heartbreaking and touching and also funny and entertaining. I think Alexa has a very unique voice and I look forward to reading more of her work. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read - sad story, but reassuring Sept. 29 2011
By jennahw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
**SPOILER ALERT** As I read this book, I was at about the point in my pregnancy that the author was at when she had hers, so it really hit home for me. It also hit home because family members have dealt with stillbirth. This author takes a truly sad story and makes it reassuring somehow. Shoe doesn't gloss over the sad parts or look to faith to guide her or anything like that (which would have made me put the book down). She deals with each challenge as it comes in a real way, and then she moves on.

I recommend this as a read for any mom-to-be. It will reassure you that almost the very worst thing can happen, and you can pull through. And again, kudos to the author for showing that you can do so without having to rely on faith. The author is honest, real, and even funny in the face of adversity, and someone who I think I could chill with in real life.

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