In the opening sentence of her introduction, Israel writes, “My last name, Israel, means one who wrestles with God. And wrestling is all I know.” And that description gives us a sense of Israel’s book. It’s not a mere recollection, but a reckoning, one in which Israel wrestles not only with her own life, but also with the past she inherited, one full of intergenerational trauma as well as intergenerational gifts.
Israel also wrestles for a future she hopes to make for herself and her young sons, one full of grace and gratitude. “You have to find a gift in every hard thing.” That’s advice that Israel once received. And her book, in which she wrestles with the pain and grief and beauty of life, is her gift to us.
A child of alcoholics and grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Carly Israel struggles to conceal her addictions and self-hatred – a path that can only end in death or sobriety. She embarks on a journey to healing but faces a new set of challenges when her youngest child develops life threatening medical issues.
Throughout Seconds and Inches are thank you letters that Israel writes to loved ones and supportive friends, but also to schoolyard bullies and unkind strangers, all of whom have taught her crucial lessons and helped her become the person she is: “a badass, sparkly, lit-up, on fire, brutally honest, potty-mouthed, tattooed woman.
Praised by Jennifer Pastiloff as a “haunting and beautiful” memoir, Seconds and Inches is a story of recovery and transformation, and a thoughtful reflection on generational trauma, gratitude, and forgiveness.
The whole “sticks and stones will break your bones,” deal is not true. Words do hurt, but we are all entitled to our opinions. Below are Literary Reviews & Reader Reviews. Almost all are super nice!
A divorce coach and HuffPost contributor recounts how she found the courage to love an imperfect life filled with episodes of addiction, heartbreak, and trauma.
Born with a last name that means “one who wrestles with God” and descended from individuals who barely survived the Holocaust, Israel seemed destined to endure more than her share of personal difficulties. As a child, she writes, “our mom was passed out drunk and high on the couch most days after work…[and] our dad drank all night after he got home.” If all seemed well, it was because the author’s mother and father were determined to “keep the outside looking good,” a lesson they passed on to their daughter. During adolescence, Israel was dealing with a “raging eating disorder” as well as substance abuse problems and bad relationships with emotionally disordered men. She attempted suicide in college and spent two years recovering and building a strong relationship with God. At age 24, Israel married a man who was her admitted opposite but who also offered her the first “real partnership” she ever had. Everything appeared “perfect.” However, by the time Israel had her third son, Levi, she and her husband were leading “separate lives.” Levi soon developed a rare neurovascular condition that at first mystified doctors. In the years that followed, his many health crises strained an already problematic marriage, revealing the emotional chasm that had developed between Israel and her husband; they later divorced. Without a doubt, Israel’s account is heartfelt and authentic. However, because the author attempts to achieve so much all at once—telling the story of her life and the lives of her Holocaust forbears without a narrowing of thematic focus; thanking every individual who taught her lessons or changed her life in end-of-chapter “letters”—the pacing sometimes suffers, as does the structural interconnectedness of the book. A candid, sometimes moving, but flawed memoir.
Having your memoir release in the middle of a pandemic is a bit unorthodox, but the good news is I get to do Author Readings all over the planet!
Seconds and Inches is an emotionally challenging memoir, but one that needs to go that deep in order to examine the affects of trauma and addiction and how they can impact an individual and a larger community, whether it’s a single family or a larger medical community. Israel’s recollection and examination of these events shows an emotional strength and fascinating point of view that elevates the material and makes her memoir one that can stick with the reader for a while after. It’s the sort of memoir that asks the reader to think about what they’re thankful for and who has truly been a pillar for them in the past and going forward, and it’s one that will hopefully inspire a few Thank-You messages to be written and sent. It’s the sort of thing that can take a moment, but taking the time to do so will be something that reaps great rewards in the years to come.
I just finished your book and all I kept on thinking was, I wish you would have reached out to me in your darkest moments. I would have been there for you. But, it’s only been 25 years since we’ve seen each other so I may not have been on that list. That said, I am incredibly grateful that your book somehow brought us back together. I couldn’t put it down. I laughed, I cried, I felt anxious and sick to my stomach at times. I fell in love with your family and the people who have supported you along your journey. And when I finished, I was not only relieved, but inspired. Inspired to face my own truth and reflect on the lessons my life has taught me (perhaps I will be able to offer the words that will inspire others to learn and grow the way that you have). Our Jewish tradition teaches that if one saves a life it is as if SHE saved the entire world. I am convinced your book will change the world many times over. Thankfully, the pictures on Facebook and the honor to attend your virtual book reading gave me the comfort to know you made it “through.” And yet I hung onto every word, hoping you would find the inner strength and support to get up from the bathroom floor and keep going. Thank God for that! And more so, thank YOU for that. I am grateful that you shared your story, your truth, your soul with the world – no one can take that away from you but any one can now carry you along their journey. This is not a highlight reel as we see so often on Facebook. It is real. It is raw. It is challenging. And most importantly, it is an invitation for us to do our own soul searching. It is an invitation to reflect on the work we need to do to repair our own souls. Our Jewish sages teach us that we are holy souls in search of more holiness and this life-long journey is not to be better, it’s to be higher. This, Carly, is the greatest high you will ever have!