Swimming With Maya

A Mother's Story

Eleanor Vincent

An award-winning writer tells about living with, loving, and losing her daughter, then learning to laugh again.
Date Published :
March 2004
Publisher :
Capital Books
Series :
Capital Discovery
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781931868341
Pages : 320
Dimensions : 8.5 X 5.5 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Eleanor Vincent raised her two daughters, Maya and Meghan, virtually as a single-parent while fighting her way toward a writing career. Maya, the eldest, was a high-spirited and gifted young woman. As a toddler Maya was an angelic tow-head, full of life and curiosity. Eleanor tells the story of how Maya went careening down a hill on her tricycle only to tumble onto the ground, then spring back up and do it again. As a teenager, Maya was energetic and possessed a strong streak of independence. She butted heads with her mother as she strove to find her path in life. But one thing was always clear, the close and connected relationship between Eleanor and Maya. They were like best friends or sisters, but always also mother and daughter. At age 19, Maya mounted a horse bareback as a dare and in a crushing cantilever fall, was left in a coma from which she would never recover. Eleanor’s life was turned upside down as she struggled to make the painful decision about Maya’s fate. Ultimately she chose to donate Maya’s organs. Maya’s heart was given to a man with a young family who needed a new heart to live. As time went by, Eleanor contacted and struck up a friendship with the heart recipient and his family. A story about the unique and complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, Swimming with Maya celebrates how that relationship continues to exist beyond the grave. In vivid language, Eleanor Vincent illuminates the kind of courage, creativity, faith, and sheer tenacity it takes to find one’s balance after such an overwhelming blow.


"Eleanor Vincent's memoir, ‘Swimming With Maya,’ weaves together the threads of mothering, mourning, and letting go. It is the story of a mother's internal path and her struggle to understand why, in fact, our children are not our lives. As the poet Kahlil Gibran wrote, we parents are the bow, and the child is the arrow. Tapping into the darkest of all mother-fears, the opening scenes of the book are a gripping and grueling account of Vincent's 19-year-old daughter's fall from a horse, the ensuing chaos of a coma, and Vincent's decision to donate her daughter's organs after her death. Vincent's story catalogs her own process, the seesawing through grief, the way that losing her daughter forces her to examine all the other losses in her life. Vincent often uses beautiful, poignant imagery when describing some of her life's most painful moments, in the days following her daughter's accident, when Maya is trapped in the limbo of a coma….She guides readers through peculiar facts of the transplant process….‘Swimming With Maya’ is much more than a heartbreaking account of losing a child. It is a memoir about motherhood, about the tangled web of parenting and childhood….And perhaps bravest of all, Vincent reveals her own shortcomings….At the close of ‘Swimming With Maya,’ Vincent keeps on keeping on, her second child, Meghan, now tucked into young adulthood, a freshman in college. There is no shiny epiphany, no gleeful shedding of her mourning robes in this book…. Contemplating the death of a child is excruciating in any form, and reading Vincent's memoir is painful on a number of levels. But if a mother can take in Vincent's truth, she'll likely find it to resonate strongly, since ‘Swimming With Maya’ is a story of letting go, which is the undercurrent always present in mothering. All of us will have to ease ourselves away from our babies in one way or another."

- Suzanne LaFetra, Literary Mama

"Swimming With Maya: A Mother's Story is the heart-rending true story of a mother who lost her beloved young daughter, yet was able to attain some consolation in knowing that the daughter's organs brought life to others. An emotionally sweeping testimony, brimming with loss and longing in its gradual journey toward acceptance, Swimming With Maya presents its emotion in clear, raw terms that reach out to touch the heart. An unforgettable journey through darkness and light."

- Midwest Book Review

"Her book is called ‘Swimming With Maya’ and deals with her personal story of healing following the death of her older daughter. It also tells of the remarkable friendship between a man who is alive because her daughter's heart beats in his chest and the grieving mother (Vincent)."

- Dixie Redfern, The Union

"Although she was shocked and grief stricken, Vincent donated Maya's organs to waiting recipients because she wanted good to come out of something so tragic. Years later, she turned that tragedy into the basis of her memoir, 'Swimming With Maya.'"

- Jennifer Gibbons, Mills College Weekly

"This intensely written memoir is likely to convince anyone of the ultimate worth of transplants....This is a risky, heartfelt book."

- Elaine Starkman, Rain Taxi Review of Books

"Vincent's prose is wonderfully alive, but it is her psychological insights, her brave willingness to understand the world in a new way that makes this memoir so profoundly moving....What might seem a depressing topic is so exquisitely rendered that Vincent's roller coaster of emotions becomes the reader's as well. I found myself at times weeping gently, holding my breath, laughing out loud, often torn between savoring Vincent's well-wrought words and speeding through her inspiring story."

- transAction Council, National Kidney Foundation

"A 10-year endeavor, ‘Swimming with Maya’ is about the death of Vincent’s daughter and Vincent’s decision to donate her daughter’s organs. The book is arranged into three parts: the horse-riding accident which caused Maya’s death, flashbacks of Maya’s life and Vincent’s healing and recovery."

- Nila Bala, The Stanford Daily

"It was by coincidence that I was catching up with Eleanor Vincent a day after Terri Schiavo passed away and at the start of National Donate Life Month, but the significance was not lost on either of us. Thirteen years ago Eleanor’s daughter Maya was declared brain dead by her doctors after a freak accident left her in an irreversible coma. At the request of Maya’s neurosurgeon, Eleanor made the life affirming decision to donate Maya’s organs to others in need. Last year her memoir, 'Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story' was published by Capital Books. In it, she describes this heart wrenching event, and the repercussions Maya’s death has had on her, Maya’s younger sister, Meghan, family members, friends, and the recipients of Maya’s organs."

- Susan Parker, Berkeley Daily Planet

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