Book Review: The Miles Levin Story

I was sent an advance copy of The Miles Levin Story for reviewing, so I lit a fire last night and sat on the couch to look through some reading matter, and I started to read the book. I didn’t stop until I finished it early this morning.

Miles Levin got cancer when he was sixteen and died when he was eighteen. While his friends were going off to college and starting the next phase of their lives, Miles was ending his and trying to find a way to do it without malice toward the thing that was taking his future away. And he did it. Look, it’s not an easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. As I read, I was looking for symptoms that someone I love might have. I was disquieted to know that he dies in the end, and that cancer is a part of each of our lives in some way or other. If you are the least bit human, you hope you are in the percentage that doesn’t get it, even though doctors now say that if you live long enough, you will at some point.

But I digress.

Miles has some powerful messages for those of us who search for true meaning, for something that just might mean there is a point to being here.

“What you will one day realize is that death is not something to fear, it is only something which one must come to understand… On a personal level, it doesn’t look to be an unpleasant experience. It’s pretty neutral as far as I’m concerned. There is a primordial terror of The Great Unknown, all instincts pitted against it, but these primitive feelings can be transcended. See, things only matter in context… In the silent contextlessness, everything is alright. Because there is never going to be enough time to do everything you want to do, but the time I’ve had  has been time enough – time enough to make the world a better place for having been here, I like to think, if only in limited circles.”

His theme throughout is that he was sort of a guy just getting through, always late to life’s events and duties, and not really doing much of anything. Then cancer delivered its blows, one by one, and each day mattered more and more. By writing his blog, he was able to accomplish something, to be somebody. He felt that if he hadn’t had it, he might have just lived for decades always ten minutes late, leaving nothing behind that mattered. It sounds so fake when I write it, so insincere (could anyone be that good?), but as you labor through the book and his pain and pleasure, you can see that he really did have the epiphany of life that we all search within our souls to find. He found his purpose in being here. He was okay with leaving.

Look, I don’t mean to imply that Miles was a saint—he wasn’t, and he didn’t want to die. “I am doing fine because I refvse to do otherwise. That much is mine. Attempts to extinguish my fire thus far have only intensified it.” Fight. Fight. Fight.

My mother died of cancer this year. I’m still facing it. This book really helped me come to a peaceful terms with the insidious disease that took her. I urge you to get it, read it, and pass it on. It’s more than a journey of death; it’s a celebration of life, and it’s guidebook that teaches you not to fear the end that comes to us all.

Before cancer, I was a nobody. A nice guy, perhaps, but I didn’t have my act together at all, and perhaps never would. Then my hour came, and you have assured me with your words, tears, and prayers that I have delivered. In showing me that I have changed many of you profoundly, you have done for me all that I could ever want or need.”

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  • Christine, EJ told me you had read the Miles Levin Story and that a review would be posted on freesialane. I read your review this morning and was beyond impressed with your absorption of the messages and your ability to reflect it in a review for your readers. I have a pretty high tear threshhold, but I’m glad I was wearing a terrycloth robe this morning to absorb the tears produced by reading your respectful and respectable review. Thank you ever so much.
    Jon Levin

  • Dave Nickason

    An excellent review of an outstanding book. Miles combines wisdom and insight far beyond his years, with an amazing candor and personal honesty that guarantee an impact on every reader. I only knew Miles through his writing, and he’s been gone for almost 4 1/2 years, but I still think of him every day. If you read this book, the life story of this brilliant, funny, caring young man will never be far from your thoughts.

    I think that for those of us who primarily read fiction, it’s easy to see a book like this one, even to speculate that it might be interesting, but then to end up picking up another novel. Please trust me, if you only ever read one book of this type, it should be this one. I guarantee you will not be disappointed – to the contrary, you will wish that you had read it sooner, that you had known Miles, that he were still here and still writing.

    “It’s more than a journey of death; it’s a celebration of life, and it’s guidebook that teaches you not to fear the end that comes to us all” is right on the money.

  • Lainey Steuer

    “Keep Fighting, Stop Struggling: The Miles Levin Story” is a true story and is an exceptionally well done book by and about an exceptionally fine human being – Miles. It made me wish I had known Miles personally.

    The book is a beautiful tribute to Miles by his father Jon Levin. Miles was an extremely admirable – and admired – young man. He was one of the rare really good people in this world, and he earned every ounce of the respect and recognition that he received from the multitude of people he reached.

    Our world is a better place for Miles’ having been in it, and he continues to have an impact on thousands of people. That was Miles’ goal, and he truly achieved it!

    I highly recommend reading this book (Note: keep tissues nearby).

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