What We Wish Were True: Reflections on Nurturing Life and Facing Death
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “Facing death is the hardest thing of all, and Tallu Quinn faces hers in a way that broke and healed my heart. This book is a beautiful tribute to life, to truth, and to love.”—Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed
Profound essays on nurturing life while facing a terminal diagnosis, from the dedicated humanitarian and young mother creating “a vibrant legacy for us to hold on to and learn from” (Ann Patchett)
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Kirkus Reviews
“I am holding both my hope and my grief together in the same hands. It is a loose hold, looser than I am accustomed to. My love is so much bigger than me.”
Nonprofit leader and minister Tallu Schuyler Quinn spent her adult life working to alleviate hunger, systemic inequality, and food waste, first as a volunteer throughout the United States and abroad, and then as the founder of the Nashville Food Project, where she supported the vibrant community work of local food justice in Middle Tennessee. That all changed just after her fortieth birthday, when she was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma, an aggressive form of terminal brain cancer.
In What We Wish Were True, Quinn achingly grapples with the possibility of leaving behind the husband and children she adores, and what it means to live with a terminal diagnosis and still find meaning. “I think about how my purpose may be the same in death as it continues to be in life—surrendering to the hope that our weaknesses can be made strong, that what is broken can be made whole,” she writes.
Through gorgeous prose, Quinn masterfully weaves together the themes of life and death by integrating spiritually nourishing stories about family, identity, vocational call, beloved community, God’s wide welcome, and living with brain cancer. Taken together, these stunning essays are a piercing reminder to cherish each moment, whether heartbreaking or hilarious, and cast loose other concerns.
As a mother, a kindred spirit, and a dear friend, Tallu Schuyler Quinn looks into our eyes with well-earned tears in her own and tells us the bittersweet truth: We are all searching for what has already found us—present and boundless love. This love will deliver us and never let us go.
Praise for What We Wish Were True: Reflections on Nurturing Life and Facing Death
“Facing death is the hardest thing of all, and Tallu Quinn faces hers in a way that broke and healed my heart. This book is a beautiful tribute to life, to truth, and to love.”—Glennon Doyle, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Untamed
“Tallu’s essays of living a spiritually and emotionally rich life in a failing body are nothing less than a master class in how to be fully human. They are deeply felt and beautifully rendered meditations on the gifts—yes, the gifts—of struggle. Of suffering. Of temporality itself. A spirit of generosity and flashes of wit shine through even her saddest words.”—Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations and Graceland, At Last
“When reading What We Wish Were True, I kept thinking of the famous Mary Oliver line, ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Clearly, Tallu Schuyler Quinn’s answer is everything. Her life, her mission, her decency, and her love create a vibrant legacy for us to hold on to and learn from. This book, like its author, is incandescent.”—Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author
“With death approaching in the rearview mirror, Tallu Quinn takes us on her final drive, fully present to the gritty, beautiful, excruciating, awe, fullness of family, love and life. I am forever changed by the journey. Thank you, Tallu.”—Amy Grant, Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter
“What We Wish Were True is an unforgettable memoir of the most profound and private experience. At the threshold between this world and the next, Tallu Quinn asks the unanswerable questions out loud, so that we may all consider them and become wiser and more openhearted ourselves.”—Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink and Bomb Shelter
“Grief inevitably shatters us. But Tallu Quinn has done what is quite unimaginable—holds the pieces up to the light and finds glory in a mosaic of endings.”—Nadia Bolz-Weber, three-time New York Times bestselling author
“Tallu Quinn is living with terminal brain cancer, but she has taken the time to give all of us the remarkable gift of a peek into how she is learning to walk through it. Her words will help me bring light to my patients when I must give them dark news and to my family when life hurts them as it often does.”—W. Lee Warren, MD, neurosurgeon and author of I’ve Seen the End of You
“A lyrical, searching meditation on terminal illness . . . There are moments of pathos, but far fewer than the author deserves to air. Instead, the narrative becomes a prayer to life, with a conclusion comforting anyone on the path to death—which is to say, all of us—that imagines what she might become in the afterlife. A tragedy whose outcome is foretold and a gentle, uplifting contribution to the literature of death and dying.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The author writes movingly and candidly . . . with the power to move readers to tears. . . . Exquisite.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)