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The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts

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The remarkable true story of acclaimed opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who received not one but two double lung transplants and went from struggling to draw a single breath to singing at the most prestigious venues in the world. Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she rec The remarkable true story of acclaimed opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who received not one but two double lung transplants and went from struggling to draw a single breath to singing at the most prestigious venues in the world. Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she received devastating news: her lungs were failing, her heart was three and a half sizes too big, and she would die within five years. Inexplicably, despite her fatal pulmonary condition, she could still sing. Medical experts advised Charity to abandon her musical dreams, but if her time was running out, she wanted to spend it doing what she loved. In just three years, she endured two double lung transplants. Teetering between life and death, she slowly learned to breathe, walk, talk, eat, and sing again. With new lungs and fierce determination, she eventually fell in love, rebuilt her career, and reclaimed her life. Over a decade after her diagnosis, she has a chart-topping album, performs around the globe, and is a leading voice for organ donation. Weaving Charity’s extraordinary tale of triumph with those of opera's greatest heroines, The Encore illuminates the indomitable human spirit. It's the story of confronting devastating challenges with love: the intimate love of a mother for her daughter, a man for a woman, a doctor for her craft, and a singer for her music. Ultimately, grace from God and strangers enabled the work of love to save one young woman's breath and allowed her to reclaim her life.


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The remarkable true story of acclaimed opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who received not one but two double lung transplants and went from struggling to draw a single breath to singing at the most prestigious venues in the world. Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she rec The remarkable true story of acclaimed opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who received not one but two double lung transplants and went from struggling to draw a single breath to singing at the most prestigious venues in the world. Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she received devastating news: her lungs were failing, her heart was three and a half sizes too big, and she would die within five years. Inexplicably, despite her fatal pulmonary condition, she could still sing. Medical experts advised Charity to abandon her musical dreams, but if her time was running out, she wanted to spend it doing what she loved. In just three years, she endured two double lung transplants. Teetering between life and death, she slowly learned to breathe, walk, talk, eat, and sing again. With new lungs and fierce determination, she eventually fell in love, rebuilt her career, and reclaimed her life. Over a decade after her diagnosis, she has a chart-topping album, performs around the globe, and is a leading voice for organ donation. Weaving Charity’s extraordinary tale of triumph with those of opera's greatest heroines, The Encore illuminates the indomitable human spirit. It's the story of confronting devastating challenges with love: the intimate love of a mother for her daughter, a man for a woman, a doctor for her craft, and a singer for her music. Ultimately, grace from God and strangers enabled the work of love to save one young woman's breath and allowed her to reclaim her life.

30 review for The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This memoir chronicles opera singer and author Charity Tillemann-Dick's medical and emotional journey through not one, but two, double lung transplants during her mid-twenties. As its subject suggests, this story is absorbing and inspiring, and I definitely cried through much of it. However, perhaps more surprisingly, it is also refreshingly honest, especially for someone coming from such a high-profile career and family. And the book is very well-written: the story flows in a way that makes it This memoir chronicles opera singer and author Charity Tillemann-Dick's medical and emotional journey through not one, but two, double lung transplants during her mid-twenties. As its subject suggests, this story is absorbing and inspiring, and I definitely cried through much of it. However, perhaps more surprisingly, it is also refreshingly honest, especially for someone coming from such a high-profile career and family. And the book is very well-written: the story flows in a way that makes it hard to put down, and somehow even manages gripping suspense in a memoir, a genre in which the reader always already knows the ending. I also realized, reading it, that there are not many memoirs in which well-educated people who grew up in the US talk really openly and personally about faith in a story that's not solely about faith. As someone who's spent much of her life trying to explain my own intersection of faith and left-leaning politics to incredulous, not-religious people around me who think that intersection is an oxymoron, I appreciated the effort it takes to articulate that belief publicly and personally, especially in writing, even if it's a faith different than mine. But even if faith's not your thing, the story is so compelling it doesn't matter. So, if you're interested in music, in medicine, in faith, or just in hope and an odds-defying story, this is a book for you. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

  2. 4 out of 5

    K

    I was privileged to receive an advance review copy of The Encore. In short, this is one of those stories that simply must be told. I was floored when I watched Charity's TED talk and performance back in 2011, following her first double lung transplant. The Encore is a deeper look at the amazing will to live (and sing) of this brave soprano. Charity was diagnosed with a debilitating pulmonary disease at the cusp of her career, twice(!) received life-saving lung transplants, and now continues to s I was privileged to receive an advance review copy of The Encore. In short, this is one of those stories that simply must be told. I was floored when I watched Charity's TED talk and performance back in 2011, following her first double lung transplant. The Encore is a deeper look at the amazing will to live (and sing) of this brave soprano. Charity was diagnosed with a debilitating pulmonary disease at the cusp of her career, twice(!) received life-saving lung transplants, and now continues to sing, to create, and to advocate. Charity's unique wit, authentic voice, and capacious love of life shine in this singular memoir, which weaves classic operatic narratives against Charity's real-life drama--highlighting the truth that life is indeed often stranger than fiction. On a personal level, I found Charity's story an inspiration for those who are seeking, if not fully to understand, then to accept and move beyond life's randomness, the body's limitations, and the illnesses that rack us. Charity's story shows that we have the ability, in some important measure, to direct our response to personal calamities--and to find purpose, joy, self-determination, and encouragement for others, even in the darkest of times.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Felicia Allen

    This book is an emotional roller coaster. It is written so well that you feel all of her feelings. This woman battled for literally every breath she took and took me along for the ride. The most important thing about this story is don't take anything for granted, live life to its fullest, and never ever give up.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is the first book I've read that was written by someone who has Pulmonary Hypertension (the same disease I have). She's a young woman, especially compared to me! She is first and foremost a singer ~ she's an opera singer. So when she is diagnose with PH, she determines to keep singing. So she does, until her lungs get so bad she has to have a transplant. I won't give the rest of the story away, but it's pretty amazing, what she's done in spite of the difficulties. I really enjoyed this book This is the first book I've read that was written by someone who has Pulmonary Hypertension (the same disease I have). She's a young woman, especially compared to me! She is first and foremost a singer ~ she's an opera singer. So when she is diagnose with PH, she determines to keep singing. So she does, until her lungs get so bad she has to have a transplant. I won't give the rest of the story away, but it's pretty amazing, what she's done in spite of the difficulties. I really enjoyed this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Grace Willow

    I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy - and literally could not put it down. It's a love story -- between a girl and her craft, a daughter and a mother, siblings and a sister, and a boy and a girl. It's beautiful and real and riveting.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mimi

    I was hoping to like this book, and I was surprised to love it. I started reading it around 9:30 just for a little bit of reading before bed, but I ended up ignoring when my husband went to bed and kept reading until 2:30 because I just had to finish this novel. I cried SO much during this book. The main focus is Charity's battle with her illness and fight for life after her transplants, but it was really interesting to also read about her strong faith, her ancestry, and her family life. To me, th I was hoping to like this book, and I was surprised to love it. I started reading it around 9:30 just for a little bit of reading before bed, but I ended up ignoring when my husband went to bed and kept reading until 2:30 because I just had to finish this novel. I cried SO much during this book. The main focus is Charity's battle with her illness and fight for life after her transplants, but it was really interesting to also read about her strong faith, her ancestry, and her family life. To me, the theme came across very strongly that her life would not have been possible without her large team of siblings, boyfriend/husband, and her mother(!) who were willing to sacrifice so much for her. I really enjoyed the way she wrote her life like an opera; the lyrics beginning each new section was appreciated. She really made me feel like I could see everything she described. The image of bringing the house down singing a phenomenal aria and then collapsing into a wheelchair behind stage was so powerful. As much as I loved it, I will say I thought the Lee part was unsatisfying. I remembered when she woke up from the coma wondering what she had dreamed about since she only just barely mentioned it in passing, just gave it one sentence. But then it was referenced later when she met the person that apparently she dreamed about, but then that wasn't dwelt on for more than a few paragraphs either. It made me wish she would just hash it all out or have not included it at all. I respect keeping things private, but then maybe don't mention it at all? I liked how the underlying theme of the whole novel, consistent throughout, was the desire to not just live but also be Great. And really, don't we all wish that? To do more than just fill up space on this earth? This novel also provided a lot of awareness regarding transplants. I can honestly say I had no. idea. I assumed that it was difficult to recover, of course, but never before had I had the opportunity to delve into such details. I have so much respect for those who are organ donors and for the people who loved them in their lives. I am amazed by the sacrifice and capability of the doctors and nurses in this story who saved her life so many times and who were willing to discuss the harsh realities when success looked impossible. I was also pretty impressed with her insurance company. Excerpts "A pencil rolls to the floor, a shoe squeaks, a lone cough fills the void—silence is nothing but potential sound." "The note resolves and the auditorium explodes in thunderous applause. I stand triumphant, then bow in gratitude. I bow over and over again—to the audience, to the producers, to my conductor and directors. To my mother and my family. The ovation continues, punctuated by 'Bravas!' and 'Encores!' What those clapping don't know is that, in many ways, this was my encore. Applause follows me as I step behind the curtain and collapse into a wheelchair. To the artist, a major debut always feels like a culmination—even a miracle. As my brother gently puts down my footrests and my sister secures an oxygen cannula around my nose, it becomes clear that this debut was particularly miraculous. Folding down my shawl to uncover the IV PICC line in my left arm, my siblings work together to administer the intravenous steroids and antibiotics that keep me alive. My lungs—my instruments—are failing. I am dying. As we round the corner to my dressing room, tears stream down my cheeks. My dream is no longer a future hope—some distant possibility. It's real. Even if my voice is silenced forever, I've just shared the greatest performance of my life in the greatest concert hall in the world." "After sending the three youngest siblings downstairs to watch TV, Dad calls a family meeting. Ignoring my entreaties to hold off until we have a firmer diagnosis, he announces my condition to the family—resolute that we're going to face this trial together. But I know this is my cross to bear. Not my brothers' or my sisters'. I don't cry in front of them. I won't. I've already given everyone enough to worry about. 'It could be worse!' I quip. 'I still have my looks!' But the stunned, numb silence persists. I try on more time—'At least PH isn't contagious?' Nobody laughs. Hours later in the dead of night, Mom crawls into my bed. She holds me in the darkness and we weep together. Even without an official diagnosis, we both know that this is the beginning of a goodbye that could last a few months or a few years. Regardless of the pace of change, this disease will shape our family's future and, ultimately, end my life." "Other doctors have told me to ease up on physical activity, to change my diet. I'm taking a battery of medications that thin my blood and give me rashes and make everything taste like tin foil. I've even been advised to stay away from Denver—my home—because of its high altitude. I can't be with my family. I can't go on my mission. I'm going to die young and childless. But if I can sing, I can face all that with a smile. . . . Ask me to change my diet, my school, my city, my sleep patterns, my exercise, my schedule. I'll do it. But I will never stop singing. Ever since Lincoln died, I've known that death is a part of life. But singing is my life. I don't know why—if it's the melodies or the stage or the physical sensations. To be honest, I don't care. I just want to live—really live—for however long I have left. I may never become Great, but I will be heard." "Initially, I improve, but I feel myself slipping into exhaustion much more quickly in recent weeks—relying on Liberty to cook and run errands because I can't muster the energy to do so myself. Some nights, I wake up to her sitting by my bed, just watching to make sure I'm still breathing." (Liberty is the author's sixteen year old sister. I can't imagine that much responsibility at that age.) "I've run out of effective alternatives. The medication will be continuously injected directly into my veins via a pump about as large as a VHS tape, which I'll have to carry with me at all times for the rest of my life with PH. I get the device implanted just before winter break. I walk out of the hospital with a narrow tube snaking out of the bottom of my shirt and connecting me to my new pump, stored in my purse and surrounded by ice packs. My life has changed forever." "Back at school, I see less success. I'm invited to sing the role of Ophelia in the world premiere for Amy Beth Kirsten's new opera, Ophelia Forever, but going into my seance year at Peabody, I'm turned down for a number of other auditions. Eventually, I find out that a recommendation from a teacher states that I 'might be the voice of a generation' before outlining, in excruciating detail, the ins and outs of my medical condition and the pump I thought I had hidden so well." "Three years older, Kimber is my best friend. She is effortless when I'm overworked, content when I'm restless, measured when I'm over the top; our inverse personalities balance each other perfectly." (view spoiler)["I understand. You're scared. We're all scared. But if he's going to get through this, we need to focus on what's best for Dad. Mom needs to focus on what's best for Dad. If you come back to Denver right now, Chary, we all know she won't be able to do that. You'll get sick, Mom will get distracted, and Dad's care will suffer because of it." (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)["As the service approaches its close, Mom takes her place behind the pulpit. She stands silent for a few moments, then begins to sing an old song by the Seekers. Unlike her children, Mom has never been a singer. Her voice is soft, husky, and cracked from grief. But I've yet to hear a more powerful performance in all my life. Beside me and behind me, tears streak down hundreds of cheeks; I've lost my father, but I, along with everybody in this room, now mourn the love of my mother's life. 'I could search the whole world over / Until my life is through / But I know I'll never find another you.'" (hide spoiler)] "Transplant has always been a possibility, but to me, it sounds more like a death sentence. In medicine, lung transplant surgeries are considered some of the most complicated. Massive blood loss, permanent nerve damage, and failure of other vital organs are commonplace. With a 50 percent mortality rate at five years, the prospect for long-term survival is bleak. On top of that, I have no guarantee of a life worth living post-op. During the surgery, large breathing tubes are shoved down the larynx through the vocal cords. If that doesn't destroy my voice, the tracheotomy (where doctors put a hole at the base of my throat to hook up a respirator) almost certainly will. So I'll be left voiceless and disfigured. That is, if I even survive." "It's like the wind has been knocked out of my new lungs. Somewhere, as my family was celebrating my second chance at life, another family was aching over the loss that had given me that chance. Was I benefitting from that family's sorrow—somehow complicit in their tragedy?" "I snort to myself. Never has 'baby' been a more apt term of endearment. I can't speak, I can't walk, I can't eat solid food. I rely on Mom for everything. I haven't sat on a toilet in weeks, and I'm pretty sure everyone in this ICU has seen my bare bottom. I thought this transplant would allow me to take my life back, but the only thing I'm taking back now are my assumptions about whether I'll ever recover from this ordeal." "I'm a glutton for miracles. But while other people get miracles like dream jobs, babies, debuts, and houses, my miracle is not being dead. Not dying has significant benefits. But before I got sick, my hard work was what people recognized and appreciated, not some visible or invisible hand of benevolence." "Now it's like that one Christmas when Santa obviously didn't get my letter. I have to grateful for gifts I never asked for in the first place. Someone else has to lift my bags and hail my cabs. I need special food and perpetual hand sanitizer. I'm in a place of unending gratitude, and it can get exhausting. Some days, I'm not grateful that my sister carries in the groceries; I'm not grateful that my siblings are alone in Denver while Mom sleeps in my hospital room. I'm not grateful for the tubes coming out of my neck, my arms, and my chest—even though they're saving my life. I wish I had my own lungs. I wish I was back in Europe singing. I wish Mom was home in Denver sleeping in her own bed. I wish I caused less hardship and sorrow. I wish that, instead of giving me so many little miracles, God would have just given me the one miracle I most wanted. Wouldn't it have been simpler to just cure my PH? Or not give it to me in the first place!" "Then she starts on my dozens of medications and when precisely I have to administer them. There's Prograf at 8:00 am and 8:00 pm sharp; Noxadil with meals; antibiotics, steroids, antivirals, antifungals, magnesium, folic acid, oxycodone as needed for pain. In all, there are over thirty pills a day. There's so much information, my head starts to spin." "Then Mom comes down to debride my wounds from the drainage tubes and the bedsores. Debriding is an awful process, but essential to both prevent infection and reduce scarring as my many wounds heal. After scrubbing up to her elbows, Mom painstakingly picks off dying cells from the raw skin covering my back with tweezers and dresses my tube sites with ointment and antiseptic. It's painful for me and stressful for her—I feel the tension in her grip as she picks and dabs with as much precision as she's capable of. Both of us are glad when it's over." (view spoiler)["'You don't know what it's like to have spent your whole life working for something, fighting for it, and then losing it all for no reason—to complete arbitrariness. It's really painful, Zen. It's hard.' 'You're talking about singing?' he asks, an eyebrow raised. 'Yes, I am.' 'Then you're a selfish idiot,' he states matter-of-factly. 'Excuse me?' He continues—'Dude. You had a mom and a dad when you were a kid. Guess what? I'm pretty much an orphan. Me. Glorianna. Mercina. Shiloh—we were orphaned because Mom ran off to take care of you, and Dad died. I mean, grow up a little, Charity. We didn't have anyone to raise us and we figured it out. But you're crying because you can't sing? That's why you're a selfish idiot.'" (hide spoiler)] "'The first time I ever saw PH was in the early eighties. The patient was so sick, so young, and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. Everyone had given up, but I stayed beside her all night. She died in my arms after three days. The next time I saw the disease, I was able to diagnose it. I explained that the patient needed to be careful, but we'd treated some of the symptoms and he was feeling better. The night after he was released from care, he went out dancing with friends and dropped dead. When I got that call . . . ' Tears begin to well in her eyes. 'These patients—they just wanted to live their lives, but I was so scared for them. They didn't have to do anything wrong. Just being normal was enough to kill them. I decided I never wanted to see another young person die because of this disease. There were no treatments approved for PH at that time, but I dedicated my life to changing that. Today, there are ten approved and another twenty in the pipeline. Patients have choices now. But being so close—sometimes I couldn't see what it was like to live with a disease like this, with a sickness I know is going to . . . ' she trails off." "I know this woman. She's an overly protective Jewish mother. She cares so much about the people around her that she doesn't care what they want. That's what she is to all of her patients—and to you. That's why she's such a great doctor." "I tell Mom first, then my brothers and sisters, then my grandmothers. They're as supportive as they can be in the midst of the news. Yoni calls his family. He says, 'It feels like we got the wind knocked out of us' over and over. If it were only that. For me, it feels like I've had my lungs ripped out of my body and someone else's sewn in, all for nothing. If I had died quickly, at least my family could have gotten on with their own lives. Instead, I've tortured them through a decade of disease and disappointment." "The only reliable difference between a music major and a performer—the amateur and the professional—is in their ability to face rejection. It's not the callback that makes you a singer. It's what you do when the callback doesn't come. Do you give up, or do you head to the next audition?" "A Christmas feast prepared by friends for the whole family sits uneaten on their dining room table; our gifts to each other languish unopened at home. I've scattered the family and left another perfectly good holiday in tatters. Who'd have thought that the Grinch who stole Christmas would have an oversized heart and a name like Charity Sunshine?" "Overwhelmed by emotion, I realize that, once again, my youngest brothers and sisters have become caretakers for my mother and me. They make sure Mom eats. They stagger eight-hour shifts with two of them constantly in the room so Mom is comfortable enough to go sleep in an actual bed." from the acknowledgements "Mercina, when I came home after cancer surgery on my face to find every one of my mirrors covered in comics, I woke down into a soppy mess. You understand the details that make a person, an event, an organization, feel cared for, myself included." "My dearest husband, when you gave me that card during our first Christmas that said we make a great team, I found it disappointingly unromantic. We were so in love. Was that the best you could do? After nearly a decade, I see you were right: We are a great team. And there's no one I'd rather have by my side during this terrifying, incredible, infuriating, beautiful, joyous life. . . . (To the reader: If you find someone who makes chemo and radiation feel more like an unpleasant but restful vacation, don't ever let them go. Ever.)" "Dearest Mommy, the gift of life is more than any of us deserve. But if nobody can ever repay their mother, I must merit an entirely new debt classification. You not only gave me my life, you gave me yours."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This memoir is a beautiful meditation on art, death, dreams, and the struggle for life. It is the story of a young opera singer who undergoes two double-lung transplants, and of her struggle for a life pursuing the singing that she so loves. Some of Charity's medical experience resonated with my own, but then it goes so much deeper. Indeed, her experience is at the extreme of human experience. On recommendation from my sister, I listened to the audiobook. Each of the chapter headings has an epigr This memoir is a beautiful meditation on art, death, dreams, and the struggle for life. It is the story of a young opera singer who undergoes two double-lung transplants, and of her struggle for a life pursuing the singing that she so loves. Some of Charity's medical experience resonated with my own, but then it goes so much deeper. Indeed, her experience is at the extreme of human experience. On recommendation from my sister, I listened to the audiobook. Each of the chapter headings has an epigraph from an opera, which Charity sings. It is beautiful, and I would agree with that recommendation. The memoir draws the parallel that life is art -- and life is so much ineffably more than art can comprehend. I was introduced to an intimate picture into a life so understandable and yet so different from my own and my own approach. I am gently acquainted with Charity via my sister, and perhaps that made my laughter deeper and my tears at her pain more real. But, it would be impossible to read this book and not have your heart ache. It can be a tough read, but surely worth the emotional effort. About 10 years ago, I read Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture"; that was a life-changing read. "The Encore" is similar, with 10 years' perspective and the accompanying life experience. I'm reminded, too, of Viktor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," and how it is what we live for that allows us to conquer the abject horrors of life -- such as pulmonary hypertension, cancer, and looming death. This book is a reminder that death comes for us all; it is how we rise to meet it that fashions the lives we lead.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Bush

    What a great read! Deeply moving and heart-felt throughout every page. A very compelling, personal story.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    A remarkable book about a truly remarkable woman. The writing is verbal, musical, fresh and inviting. It stands out even in its memoir genre. Let's be honest: reading a memoir of a 30-something may seem a little underdone. Has she had enough experience that I can draw on or be interested in? Is she even mature enough to have a view of her place in the world or in her own life? Do I even like memoir or personality writing at all? (Spoiler: it's not my preferred genre but this one is worth it.) Cha A remarkable book about a truly remarkable woman. The writing is verbal, musical, fresh and inviting. It stands out even in its memoir genre. Let's be honest: reading a memoir of a 30-something may seem a little underdone. Has she had enough experience that I can draw on or be interested in? Is she even mature enough to have a view of her place in the world or in her own life? Do I even like memoir or personality writing at all? (Spoiler: it's not my preferred genre but this one is worth it.) Charity writes with a breezy depth that plumbs and inspects her life, with color, narrative, as meaning. Most interesting to me is her tapestry of medical stories, education, spirituality, religion, love, and music. As with any good writer, Charity doesn't pretend to have the most pitiful, most remarkable, most against-all-odds story. She's aware how luck, some privilege, and some hard work by others and beyond her control contributed to her success and survival, and that many, too many, don't make it. I hope we don't go through life comparing how hard ours are to others though. It's worth reading, enjoying, and reflecting on this life, her audacity to share, and what we might learn from someone willing to do so.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Janine Spendlove

    I've never read a memoir/biography that was so consuming of my thoughts and attention. Charity's candid recounting of being a professional opera singer while diagnosed with a terminal illness (PH) and her long and arduous road to recovery after not one, but two double lung transplants (and she still performs/sings), was one of the most uplifting, inspiring stories I have encountered in my life. I'm so thankful she took the time to write this book, to share her story, and more importantly, is sti I've never read a memoir/biography that was so consuming of my thoughts and attention. Charity's candid recounting of being a professional opera singer while diagnosed with a terminal illness (PH) and her long and arduous road to recovery after not one, but two double lung transplants (and she still performs/sings), was one of the most uplifting, inspiring stories I have encountered in my life. I'm so thankful she took the time to write this book, to share her story, and more importantly, is still alive today and sharing her wonderful light and talents with the world.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I don’t know how it is to read, but you MUST listen to this book! I loved the voice. And the singing. Delving into the esoteric opera world with your toe! A long car ride and you’re swept up in this young woman’s family and life. I laughed and cried in just the right amount. And learned much more than I already thought I knew about organ donation/transplants. An important topic told in a very engaging way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    A vividly moving, beautifully written and incredibly inspiring memoir. The author has a gift for conveying the triumphs, heartaches, poignant moments and humorous anecdotes of her life. Her love for life, her family and her music make this book a joy to read. I cannot recommend it enough.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tanya Spackman

    Beautiful.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Loved this book! Filled with hope and determination!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anna Weiss

    I couldn't put this book down. It's an amazing story of hope, belief, and love mixed with a dash of opera and a fantastic cast of characters.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melodie Winawer

    Breathtaking, inspiring, unputdownable 36-hour read. This memoir is a triumph—And it has the power to move others struggling against odds to live life with great joy.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn Brodeur

    I was an acquaintance of Charity when she lived in Baltimore. She was kind, a bit peculiar to me, yet I was impressed with her wisdom in church discussions. I didn't realize until after she moved away just how sick she was. I cried sad and happy tears reading this book. At the time of reading, my body is not cooperating and daily living is challenging. It moved me to continue to have the gumption and courage to continue living my life as fully as possible. I was also humbled and reminded to love I was an acquaintance of Charity when she lived in Baltimore. She was kind, a bit peculiar to me, yet I was impressed with her wisdom in church discussions. I didn't realize until after she moved away just how sick she was. I cried sad and happy tears reading this book. At the time of reading, my body is not cooperating and daily living is challenging. It moved me to continue to have the gumption and courage to continue living my life as fully as possible. I was also humbled and reminded to love and support others who are struggling. PS I remember seeing on fb when Charity meet Yoni. I'm an even bigger fan after reading this book. Also, I'd love to chat with Charity's mother one day on how she approached homeschooling her children. What an incredible woman.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    An uplifting story of a remarkable person striving and surviving against unbelievable odds. The story of the author beating deadly health issues with the help of her family and both the help and, sometimes, hindrance of modern medicine, while remarkable enough, is simply overshadowed by her continued faith and hope, appropriate virtues, given her name. If you ever feel that life isn't fair, (and don't we all, sometimes) then this book is not a refutation of that theorem, but rather a blueprint on An uplifting story of a remarkable person striving and surviving against unbelievable odds. The story of the author beating deadly health issues with the help of her family and both the help and, sometimes, hindrance of modern medicine, while remarkable enough, is simply overshadowed by her continued faith and hope, appropriate virtues, given her name. If you ever feel that life isn't fair, (and don't we all, sometimes) then this book is not a refutation of that theorem, but rather a blueprint on how one woman kept her feet, her life and her soul amongst the riptide of events that overtook her.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Marika

    Imagine being an award winning classical recording artist, a Soprano whose voice soars to heaven as you sing. Now grasp that you are this gifted singer and have been diagnosed with a fatal lung disease that requires not one, but two lung transplants. This book is the true story of Charity Tillemann-Dick and how she persevered against all odds and is now singing with someone else's lungs. A raw, compelling and inspirational read. I read an advance copy and was not compensated.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelly ...

    This one is difficult to rate. 5 STARS for the story with all its heart and the beautiful life lessons. 4 stars for the way in which it is told. Charity's writing is good: intimate and conversational. But it isn't Steinbeck good. It isn't Hardy good. So, I cannot give it 5 stars. However, you SHOULD read this! The story -- which is true -- is lovely and loving. It made me feel all the feels. I listened to the audio version and I highly recommend it as you get bonus music, plus it is Charity's own This one is difficult to rate. 5 STARS for the story with all its heart and the beautiful life lessons. 4 stars for the way in which it is told. Charity's writing is good: intimate and conversational. But it isn't Steinbeck good. It isn't Hardy good. So, I cannot give it 5 stars. However, you SHOULD read this! The story -- which is true -- is lovely and loving. It made me feel all the feels. I listened to the audio version and I highly recommend it as you get bonus music, plus it is Charity's own voice.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharlyn

    I grew up going to Stake girls camp with Charity! I loved this book. Not only does Charity have a beautiful singing voice, she has a beautiful writing voice too!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Heart-wrenching, inspiring, funny, and real.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    Really a stunning story of a life. I'll have to collect my thoughts on it some more. Review to come!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I felt sad for Charity and her family, but I was in awe of the medical teams, her boyfriend, her family, her mother, her friends. I learned a lot about the excellent health care systems, and about what a difference one medical person can make in the life of a patient.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gordon Kaplan

    Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she received devastating news: her lungs were failing, her heart was three and a half sizes too big, and she would dies within five years. Inexplicably, despite her fatal pulmonary condition, she could still sing. Medical experts advised Charity to abandon her musical dreams, but if her time was running out, she wanted to spend it doing what she loved. In just th Charity Tillemann-Dick was a vivacious young American soprano studying at the celebrated Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest when she received devastating news: her lungs were failing, her heart was three and a half sizes too big, and she would dies within five years. Inexplicably, despite her fatal pulmonary condition, she could still sing. Medical experts advised Charity to abandon her musical dreams, but if her time was running out, she wanted to spend it doing what she loved. In just three years, she endured two double lung transplants, Teetering between life and death, she slowly learned to breath, walk, talk, eat, and sing again. With new lungs and fierce determination, she eventually got married, rebuilt her career, and reclaimed her life. Over a decade after her diagnosis, she has a chart-topping album, performs around the globe, and is a leading voice for organ donation. Weaving Charity's extraordinary tale of triumph with those of opera's greatest heroines, The Encore illuminates the indomitable spirit. It's the story of confronting devastating challenges with love: the ultimate love of a mother for her daughter, a man for a woman, a doctor for her craft, and a singer for her music. Ultimately, grace from God and strangers enabled the work of love to save one young woman's breath and allowed her to reclaim her life. (Description from book jacket.) I can only echo what other reviews have said: Charity's life is an emotional roller coaster. She not only has to go through one lung transplant but a second one. Throughout her journey, she has the support of her friends, her boyfriend, later fiancée, later husband, her eleven brother and sisters, her faith, and most of all her inner strength and the strength of her indomitable mother. This is a deeply moving and heartfelt and a very compelling, personal story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Lawson

    "Charity, this is the Doctor. We have Lungs! Not many people have reason to rejoice on hearing the news, "We have lungs, we have lungs!" In ENCORE, we hear about the remarkable, uplifting story of one young opera singer who got to hear that news TWICE. I wept reading this book. All I could think was, "Thank you, God, for saving this young woman!" The author survived not just one double lung transplant--but TWO! Charity went through horrific operations, dodging death and disability each time. After "Charity, this is the Doctor. We have Lungs! Not many people have reason to rejoice on hearing the news, "We have lungs, we have lungs!" In ENCORE, we hear about the remarkable, uplifting story of one young opera singer who got to hear that news TWICE. I wept reading this book. All I could think was, "Thank you, God, for saving this young woman!" The author survived not just one double lung transplant--but TWO! Charity went through horrific operations, dodging death and disability each time. After the first transplant, the doctors had to put her in a coma for FIVE WEEKS. I cannot fathom what it would be like having to endure this. Reading ENCORE, I learned a lot about lung disease along the way. It is neither a pleasant or pretty picture. Here's just one example: After the second transplant, the anti-rejection drugs compromise the immune system, making one susceptible to skin cancer. Charity recalls: "My vulnerable porcelain complexion has already been invaded ty soon-to-be-visible clumps of spindle squamous cells. They'll breed at astonishing rates. . . " This story is an inspiration to us all. Next time you feel sorry for yourself, or think that maybe life is too hard, think about THE ENCORE, and Charity Tillemann-Dick. Charity writes near the end: "Ten years after I first embarked on my great medical saga, I no longer feel the stage fright I used to get before doctor's appointments. I no longer fear rejection." Bravo, Bravo! See also: Bassocantor.com/blog/encore

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Not only does Charity do a fantastic job explaining her own medical struggles, but she also includes the perspectives of her family members and the medical staff with whom she's worked with throughout her life. True to her name, Charity adds humor and understanding where others might have expressed criticism and bitterness.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    One of the pleasures of reading a book written by a dear friend is being able to hear her voice in my head while I read (of course the audiobook recorded by Charity is an excellent option (it has music, too), but I already know her voice well). Attendant to the pleasures and pain of reading 'The Encore', accompanied by a mental version of Charity's lilt, are re-experiencing my friend conquering impossible distresses and attaining fairy tale triumphs by sheer stamina, will and world-class talent. One of the pleasures of reading a book written by a dear friend is being able to hear her voice in my head while I read (of course the audiobook recorded by Charity is an excellent option (it has music, too), but I already know her voice well). Attendant to the pleasures and pain of reading 'The Encore', accompanied by a mental version of Charity's lilt, are re-experiencing my friend conquering impossible distresses and attaining fairy tale triumphs by sheer stamina, will and world-class talent. Charity's family and the attendant surrounds of its history are simply too amazing to fit in a work of fiction. I encountered much of this in real time over the past seven years but in far less embroidered and structured detail, from Charity and Yoni, her amazing mom, Annette, and her siblings. 'The Encore' is enlightening and humbling. As much as was discussed by phone or text or over meals, no conversation can be as fully encompassing or engrossing as this well-remembered, cinematically staged and gripping autobiography. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone not familiar with how art and passion and never giving up can trump the hard-won wisdom of medical science and its highly-experienced pragmatic practitioners; how ardent love, spirituality and a take-no-prisoners mom can lift the best efforts of courageous specialists over the barriers of doubt and abundant caution. Charity is a miracle of a person and a her book sings.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I know Charity and Yoni personally and would have finished this book even if it had not been amazing. But it is amazing. Charity's saga is compelling simply as a human story of courage, suffering, survival, and love. But it is more than that. The book is structured, crafted, and written with care and skill. Even in describing episodes where it would have been easy—and understandable—to lapse into the overly dramatic, Charity is disciplined. She depicts her thoughts and emotions in ways that are I know Charity and Yoni personally and would have finished this book even if it had not been amazing. But it is amazing. Charity's saga is compelling simply as a human story of courage, suffering, survival, and love. But it is more than that. The book is structured, crafted, and written with care and skill. Even in describing episodes where it would have been easy—and understandable—to lapse into the overly dramatic, Charity is disciplined. She depicts her thoughts and emotions in ways that are striking and affecting. Charity throughout the book is transparent, vulnerable, and funny. I think it would be impossible to come away from a reading without loving her as a narrator and a person. The supporting cast of heroes—particularly Charity's fiancé (and eventual husband), Yoni, and her mother, Annette—are also vividly drawn.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Allie Ryan

    I was first lead to this book after listening to an interview Charity did on the Strangerville podcast. Hearing the brief version of her story there was enough to look up and purchase her book. It’s an inspiring story and as someone that can have a hard time reading non-fiction/memoirs, this was a quick read. Telling the story from when she was just beginning her opera career to her diagnosis of PH and subsequent attempts to healing, this book is divided into three Acts reminiscent of the opera I was first lead to this book after listening to an interview Charity did on the Strangerville podcast. Hearing the brief version of her story there was enough to look up and purchase her book. It’s an inspiring story and as someone that can have a hard time reading non-fiction/memoirs, this was a quick read. Telling the story from when she was just beginning her opera career to her diagnosis of PH and subsequent attempts to healing, this book is divided into three Acts reminiscent of the opera the Charity loves. Reading about her double lung transplant and how she kept on singing and kept living life to the fullest her way, is a true inspiration.

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