Posted by: Karen | April 24, 2013

UNTIL I SAY GOODBYE by Susan Spencer Wendell

My Year of Living With Joy.  written with Brett Witter.Until I say Goodbye

Available now from Harper Audio.

From the Publisher:

“A powerfully emotional and irrepressibly joyous at the things that matter most.

Susan Spencer-Wendel’s Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy is a moving and inspirational memoir by a woman who makes the most of her final days after discovering she has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

After Spencer-Wendel, a celebrated journalist at the Palm Beach Post, learns of her diagnosis of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, she embarks on several adventures, traveling to several countries and sharing special experiences with loved ones. One trip takes Spencer-Wendel and her 14-year-old daughter, Marina, to New York City’s Kleinfeld’s Bridal to shop for Marina’s future wedding dress – an occasion that Susan knows she will never see.

Co-written with Bret Witter, Until I Say Good-Bye is Spencer-Wendel’s account of living a full life with humor, courage, and love, but also accepting death with grace and dignity. It’s a celebration of life, a look into the face of death, and the effort we must make to show the people that we love and care about how very much they mean to us.”

From the review in Audiofile Magazine:

“With upbeat pacing and wry humor, narrator Karen White reflects the author’s unbroken spirit and ever present wit while her wistful tone conveys all the pathos of the situation without ever becoming maudlin. White’s moving presentation helps realize Spencer-Wendel’s ultimate wish for her incredible book “to make people laugh and cry, and hug their children, and joke with their friends, and dwell on how wonderful it is to be alive.”

My recording experience:

Oh, oh, oh.  This was One of Those Books.  One of Those Books that changes your life.  One of Those Books that, as a narrator, you just hope you do it justice.  And you do the retakes again and again until you’re not crying because you know that the author wouldn’t want that in there, because she’s not crying.  She’s smiling.

Although I’ve recorded a pile of memoirs, it was a particular gift to record this one.  For so many reasons.  But the top of the list was that Susan couldn’t do it herself.  Many writers choose not to record their own work, for all kinds of reasons, but this time someone had to be Susan’s voice, and truly truly I was so honored that I could do this for her.  Because what I received in return were Susan’s words echoing in my head.  Smile.  I am alive today.  Live with joy.  Words that have continued to echo for  me everyday since I read them in December.  I am inspired by Susan to be present in my life, with my kids, with my husband, and to enjoy dog kisses as much as I want to.  I think you will be, too.

Listen to a sample here:


  1. […] My favorite literary fiction books i have narrated this past year are Here and Again,  What I Had Before I Had You, and  Sea Creatures.  My favorite memoir this year (and very sad as this inspiring woman just recently passed away last week) Until I Say Good Bye by Susan Spencer Wendell. […]

  2. Oh, boy. I wasn’t really aware of what this book was about, although I’ve seen the title mentioned here and there. I listen to audiobooks while driving a lot, so I’ll have to watch out when I listen to this. I listened to Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking and to One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman, and both were very powerful audiobooks.

  3. […] have affected me deeply.  But one that I worked on this past year has really stuck with me.  Until I Say Goodbye by Susan Spencer-Wendel is a book that I would never have chosen to read because I would have thought, “No- I […]

  4. Living life to its fullest is a daily challenge. Knowing that you have a very limited length of time might paralyze some. Spencer-Wendel decided to run, no – Sprint to her finish line. Can’t wait to read listen.

    What brings me joy is seeing my kids succeed. This past weekend got a joyful call from our oldest – her husband just got a new job and they can spend more time together on weekends. Later, on Saturday, I watched as our middle child (28) taught our youngest (13) how to perfect his back-handspring. Lots of joy to behold! Four back-handsprings in a row to a full-layout.

  5. […] more about this book in my previous post, but to enter, just make a comment below and tell me what brings you […]

  6. Wow, what a powerful review, Karen. Your review, even more than the book description itself, makes me want to read this. I’m sure you do it great justice. I will buy it and listen to your voice and get a two for one dose of fabulous women!

    • I hope it works for you, Gwen! I think I am “selling” this book so strongly because I probably wouldn’t have picked it up by the description. I would have been worried that it would be too depressing. But Susan so successfully rises above her circumstances that it’s anything but depressing.

  7. Wow, Spencer-Wendel sounds so inspirational. This memoir sounds amazing – I listened to the clip and it’s wonderful.

    • Thanks, Kathy! Obviously, I feel strongly about this book. (And let me know if you want me to try and get you a review copy.)

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