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The third wave of the pandemic is now well underway – greeted in this country by mass disbelief, disillusionment and despair. We’ve been collectively running a marathon. We are tired. We want to rest. Or, at the very least, we want to slow down. But we must persevere. And so, 2021 is a master class in endurance, and, yes, resilience. And on this last point, the writers of the world have much to teach us. Here are five moving new works on cultivating resilience.

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking A Life From Scratch, Erin French (Celadon Books, 304 pages)

/The Associated Press

A decade ago, Erin French lost everything. In one gut-wrenching day, the American chef, restaurateur and cookbook author lost her business, her marriage, her custody of her son and her freedom. She found herself institutionalized, at a rehab centre, reeling from the blows. This memoir is the story of how she put her life back together. And it is an unexpected delight, from start to finish. The writing here is brimming with hope and hard work and determination, every page infused with the life-sustaining goodness to be drawn from service, family, friendship and food. Reading Finding Freedom makes you feel like you’re sitting down with French for a long talk over a delicious meal, followed by a strong cup of coffee, a rich dessert, and a warm hug. Guaranteed to make you want to visit her wildly successful dining destination, The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, the moment that travel is possible again.

I Am a Girl From Africa, Elizabeth Nyamayaro (Scribner, 272 pages)

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When she was eight years old, during a drought in her village in Zimbabwe, Elizabeth Nyamayaro almost died. After her grandmother, with whom she lived, left the village on an errand for days, Nyamayaro ran out of food and found herself lying in a maize field, unable to get up. What happened next set the course for her entire life. A United Nations aid worker arrived, fed her porridge, and saved her life – in that moment, instilling a lifelong dream to help others, working with the UN. The journey from her rural village to the senior ranks of the UN takes many years and unbelievable amounts of shinga, a term her grandmother teaches her. “Shinga is your inner strength, but it also means so much more,” she tells her, “shinga means courage and to ‘be strong,’ and it also means to ‘persevere’ and to be ‘resilient.’ You, my dear child, you can always draw on your shinga, no matter the challenges you may face.”

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Goodbye Again: Essays, Reflections and Illustrations, Jonny Sun (Harper Perennial, 256 pages)

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The Canadian architect, author, playwright and social media sensation Jonny Sun writes in a singularly compelling voice that’s at once vulnerable, tender and deeply relatable. His latest, Goodbye, Again mulls over timely topics such as overwork, isolation, loneliness, anxiety and depression, finding joy and uplift in surprising places: caring for house plants, cooking the perfect egg, listening to friends unburden themselves, lingering over meals with his parents. And, perhaps most delightfully, going for dim sum, where “it feels like there is no way to understand the passage of time once you are inside, as the food keeps refilling and the dirty plates keep being replaced with clean ones and the empty steamers and dishes in the centre get replaced with full ones, and the ladies with the carts seem to always be giving out food but never running out of it.” And as for anxiety, Sun’s girlfriend offers some sage words in these pages: “Don’t tell yourself ‘don’t worry,’ but just…worry smaller.”

Everything Is Fine: A Memoir, Vince Granata (Atria Books, 304 pages)

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American writer Vince Granata lived through an unspeakable horror. In 2014, the author’s brother Tim, suffering from extreme mental illness, murdered their mother. Granata’s harrowing memoir attempts to come to terms with this fact, exploring childhood memories – his brother was one of triplets – as well as chronicling Tim’s descent into schizophrenia and his parents’ heroic efforts to help him. (During which years Granata’s mother regularly reassured him, “everything is fine,” to calm his fears). The true heart of this story, though, is Granata’s journey through the aftermath – how he works through shock and grief, moving towards compassion and love and the rebuilding of family. In speaking the unspeakable here, Granata finds healing. Along with a form of endurance that allows for unsolvable sorrow, contradiction and open vulnerability.

Mud, Rocks, Blazes: Letting Go on the Appalachian Trail, Heather “Anish” Anderson (The Mountaineer Books, 240 pages)

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Resilience is not only emotional; it is physical. And so we can’t talk about resilience without also talking about the bodily experience of being stretched to the limit. As our country’s health-care professionals can attest, especially this spring, resilience often requires enormous physical stamina. And that is something that extreme hiker Heather Anderson – trail name, “Anish” – knows something about. In Mud, Rocks, Blazes, the spirited American athlete chronicles her grueling, 54-day trip from Maine to Georgia, on the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail. In the process of pushing her physical limits, she expands her emotional ones. It’s a story, ultimately, then, of braving the wilderness within.

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