Category Archives: My book

Medical wisdom

Cover - for blogAnyone who has read my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, or spent any time with me knows that I have only tentative respect for the medical wisdom we are exposed to in today’s “evidence-based” world. Most experts contend that medical truth can only be verified if is subjected to the gold standard of double-blind placebo-controlled trials. They automatically reject any approach that doesn’t pass this test—be it homeopathic, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic, Anthroposophical, or from any other system. “It’s all a crock,” to quote a doctor mentioned in my book.

Moreover, these “experts” have repeatedly tried to get the U.S. Government to outlaw the sale and use of any treatment that has not been “proven” to be safe and effective in double-blind placebo-controlled trials.

Several questions come to mind. First, these trials, regardless of their results, do not guarantee safety. Safety depends on many factors: accurate reporting of the (inevitable) side effects; the doctor’s interpretation of these reports, knowledge of the patient, and overall judgment; and, most important, the patient’s circumstances and the extent to which he or she actually follows the treatment.

There are also questions about how the double-blind placebo-controlled trials are conducted and reported. This subject is covered in detail in the Carl Elliot’s White Coat, Black Hat, which I will review in another blog.

Samuel Hahnemann Father of homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann
Father of homeopathy

For now, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that these studies are objective and that their results are reported honestly. I believe that the concept itself of the double-blind placebo-controlled trial is naïve and deceptive. It is premised on an extremely narrow view of health and the human condition. It ignores most of the variables that affect a person’s overall health and resistance to disease. I believe that the very notion that human “subjects” can be compared under the same conditions is deeply flawed.

This concern applies especially to cancer, a major target of drugs being tested in these so-called objective trials. It is well known that cancer is the result of many different factors acting upon the body. The World Health Organization recognized long ago that cancer is multi-causal. It is dizzying to think of all the influences that could contribute to a person developing cancer or dictate the course of the disease.

Ideally, the subjects in a trial for a cancer drug would have to be matched for the following criteria:  existing health issues, family health history, prescription medicines, over-the-counter remedies, dietary supplements and herbs, body mass index, metabolic type, digestive status, blood type, exercise regime, current and past smoking habits, environmental tobacco smoke, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, sleep patterns, daily fluid intake, diet (including types of sugar and fat, meat, dairy, eggs, gluten, corn, diet drinks, colas), pollution in the environment, workplace conditions, exposure to TV and computer screens, cell phone use, history of past exposure to radiation, socioeconomic status, urban vs. rural residence, family dynamics, social support, pet ownership, and many others—all trumped by the single most important factor: the patient’s attitude.

And what if the subject is also engaged in one or several alternative practices? For example: acupuncture, aromatherapy, biofeedback, chiropractic, crystal healing, emotional freedom technique, homeopathy, hypnosis, massage therapy, meditation, Reiki, Qigong. There are dozens of possible approaches, and any of them could be affecting the patient’s status. These effects would also have to be factored into the results.

And here’s a thought: maybe the body does what it does through its own natural intelligence, beyond anything we can measure or control.

We simply don’t know, and it’s simplistic to believe that the placebo-controlled double-blind study yields anything but a very rough impression.


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Local Author Exhibit at The new San Diego Central Library

Happy New Year, everyone!

SD Library logoWhat a great way to kick off 2014! I have just learned that the new San Diego Central Library will be launching its first Local Author Exhibit with a reception on January 31st. My memoir, Finding My Invincible Summer, is one of the featured books.

The new Central Library opened last September 30. It’s an awesome project. You can watch an excellent film about it at Thirty years in the planning and three years in the making, the building is nine stories tall and a has a dome (larger than the one on the United SD Central LibraryStates Capitol) that now dominates the downtown San Diego skyline. The dome is purposely “unfinished,” symbolizing the idea that learning is always a work in progress.

The new 500,000-square-foot space houses more than 2.6 million references and has numerous specialized collections, like the San Diego Heritage Center, the Rare Book Room, the Dr. Seuss-themed Children’s Library, and the Society of Baseball Research. It has a Workforce Center for job-seekers, a Teen Center, the ICAN Center for the disabled, a computer lab, and a full-fledged high school, which occupies two of its floors. The entire building is filled with original works by San Diego artists, and it also has a sculpture garden, an art gallery, and indoor and outdoor concert venues. The Reading Room on the 8th floor has windows three stories high overlooking the city and San Diego Bay.

SD centrallibrary-floors

The project cost $185 million and was funded through a public-private partnership, with donations not only from corporations but also from numerous private individuals. It is a true community effort – a triumph for San Diego!

I’m very excited about the new Central Library, and I will be posting more news and photos in the coming weeks, including a report on the Local Author Exhibit.

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Goodreads Giveaway and Other Good News

goodreadsI’m excited to announce that my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, has been approved for a Goodreads Giveaway. is a site for serious readers where you can connect with other readers, join discussion groups, rate and review your all-time favorite titles, take quizzes, win free books, and much more. The site claims to have over 20 million users. It is now owned by Amazon.

The Giveaway started today (Monday, December 16) and will last a week. The way it works, people sign up saying they’re interested in getting a free softbound copy of my book, and at the end of the week 10 copies are given away based on an algorithm that Goodreads uses to pick the winners. The winners are encouraged, but not required, to write a Cover - for blogreview. On the evening of the first day, already 83 people had signed up for my Giveaway and a long string of folks had added the book to their “to read” list. This is a great way to promote it to a really receptive audience.

Since Finding My Invincible Summer is new to Goodreads, its page has yet been fully developed or “populated” with ratings or reviews. If you have read the book and liked it, you could go on the site and rate it by running your mouse across the five stars – no need to write a review. The link is I would be very grateful!

Another cool feature is that this blog will show up on my Goodreads author page!

In other news, Finding My Invincible Summer finally has its own website – still a work in progress – which is on track to becoming feature-rich with all sorts of bells and whistles. The site will be growing and getting fancier over the coming months. You can check it out at The new site also has a “Blog” tab that directs the user to this blog. Now that the framework is in place, I will be blogging intensively in the weeks to come.


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Preventive Mastectomy

joliepaintingI have been wanting to write about preventive mastectomy ever since Angelina Jolie announced that she had both breasts removed because her doctors told her she was at high risk for developing cancer. While I understand that women with inherited BRCA genetic mutations are at increased risk, there is also the possibility they will not get cancer. I strongly believe in focusing on the positive and living in the moment. What you focus on expands.

In this post I will be referring to the patient as “she,” even though men can get breast cancer, because the factors that promote fear around the disease mainly affect women.

Women worry about their families, especially what will become of their children, if they die. Cancer is a threat not just to them personally but to all the people they love who depend on them:  they worry more for others than for themselves. They want to do everything possible to keep the worst from happening. But worry and fear are close conspirators, and excessive fear lowers the body’s natural defenses.

Dying to be MeIn her book Dying to Be Me, survivor Anita Moorjani writes that freedom from fear cured her of terminal cancer. She believes that her fear of cancer contributed to her disease in the first place and gave it momentum up until the day she was expected to die. Her near-death experience taught her that there was nothing to fear, and she healed spontaneously. (I will be posting my review of her book in the near future.)

I had a similar epiphany myself, though on a smaller scale. In my book Finding My Invincible Summer I write about my breast cancer journey from fear to freedom. I also write about the trend toward less invasive surgery and recent studies showing that most invasive mastectomies done today are unnecessary: a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy would suffice.Cover - thumbnail

In following up after the first cancer treatment, the doctors’ intention is to protect the patient and catch any changes before the situation gets out of “control.” However, this follow-up creates a “system” in which woman are constantly living in fear, always wondering what’s going to happen next. In my case, I refused to be followed – but that’s another story, told in detail in my book.

A new study shows that when women with breast cancer had their second breast removed as a precaution, the surgery had almost no effect on whether or not they had a recurrence. Meanwhile, the patient had weakened her body’s defense against disease by exposing it to the stress, trauma, and risks of major surgery.

No one can promise that a woman won’t get breast cancer, but they can’t promise that she will get it, either. My advice to Angelina would have been to forget about preventive mastectomy and live each day present in the moment without fear of the future.


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Mr. Gifford and My Trip through the Panama Canal

When I was working on my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, my editor encouraged me to write about the people in my life without any thought of including the material in the final version. It was a great exercise that added depth to the book. Here is one of my unpublished portraits.


I was two months short of my fourth birthday when my mother left my father and moved to California to join my Aunt Muriel and start a new life. To save money, Mother had booked passage on a freighter, the SS West Notus, which

West Notus

carried cargo from New York to San Francisco by way of the Panama Canal. It was a 30-day voyage, and I remember much of it vividly. The passenger list was very short: in addition to Mother and me, there was Mrs. Bickers and her two children, who had accommodations on the bridge, and Mr. Gifford, whose cabin was across the mess hall from ours. Mrs. Bickers was seasick the entire time, and she and her children never came to meals. That left the three of us. The mess hall had only one large table and we ate with the ship’s officers.

Mother often told the story of her first encounter with Mr. Gifford. At dinner the first night out, she and I were the only passengers at the table. She therefore assumed that the cabin on the other side of the mess hall was empty. She was curious to check it out and see if it was any larger than ours. After the galley closed, she sneaked across the mess hall in the dark  (my mother was nothing if not adventurous) and went to try the door of the cabin to see if it was open. Just as she was about to turn the knob, a dark form filled the passageway, a firm hand clapped on top of hers, and a hearty voice boomed:

“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania!!!”

An English major, she immediately recognized the quote from Shakespeare. She ran back to our cabin, laughing so hard she thought she’d never stop. The next day there were formal introductions and Mr. Gifford became part of our lives. He never let Mother forget about her attempt to break into his cabin.

At 6-foot-4 and over 300 pounds, James Noble Gifford was a presence that could not be ignored. His mother had been an opera singer, and he had been trained since childhood to follow her path, but stage fright had kept him from pursuing his intended career. He still had a powerful tenor voice, and he was comfortable keeping the two of us, the officers, and the cabin crew entertained with concerts in the evenings after dinner. When he wasn’t singing, he told wonderful stories, drawn from a rich cultural background. He was always jolly and knew how to make people laugh, including me.

He had booked passage on the freighter because it was cheaper than the cost of room and board for a month, but he had no particular destination in mind. During our days on the open sea, he spent a lot of time with me and gave me the kind of attention I had never had from my father. He taught me silly songs, limericks and other poems, and how to play Canfield solitaire. He treated me as an equal and made me feel that it was us against the world. We were in cahoots. I felt very special. I adored him.

He earned his living writing pulp romance novels under his own name and a variety of pseudonyms—Emily Noble, Warren Howard, John Saxon, Ross Sloane, Gerald Foster, Gay Rutherford, Griffith James, Carol Holliston, Eliot Brewster, Roy Booth, and possibly others. James GiffordHe also ghost-wrote books for other authors of the genre, including Peggy Gaddis. Each “author” had a specialty: Warren Howard, for example, wrote romances set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that featured the local area and its people, while John Saxon’s books were what they now call “vintage sleaze.”

His publisher expected him to produce a book a month, for which he was paid just a couple of hundred dollars, and he was always behind, living off advances against books he hadn’t written yet. I remember watching him as he wrote page after page in longhand. I learned later that he was required to introduce racy passages at designated intervals, but the job of writing them went to a “specialist” in steamy prose. He would leave a blank space where they were supposed to be inserted. His role was to set the scene, create the characters, and spin the tale. Over the years, he dedicated several books to my mother and two to me—the tamer ones. My research on the Internet brings up more than 140 titles that I’m fairly certain were written by him over a period of 28 years. Many have become collector’s items, selling for as much as $125 a copy. I doubt  my mother knew about the “hotter” ones—he made sure we didn’t know all the hats he wore.

Other memories from the trip include our passage through the Panama Canal. We reached the first lock early in the morning, and I recall the eerie feeling as I watched its gray concrete walls rise through the portholes, turning everything dark inside as the ship “sank.”

My favorite memory by far was Easter morning. We were in port at the other end of the Canal, near Panama City, and I woke up to find white “footprints”—made with three fingers dipped in flour—leading all over the ship to nests of shredded green stuff that the cabin boys and crew had hidden. The fellows had gone ashore to buy the materials, and they also brought back a gigantic a carnival-sized stuffed bunny. They cooked and dyed the eggs in the ship’s galley. The big bunny was waiting for me in the center of the table at breakfast. Mr. Gifford had gotten me a smaller bunny and felt outdone.

Golden GateI also recall the excitement when we arrived in San Francisco Bay at sunset and sailed under the newly completed Golden Gate Bridge. Looking up at it from underneath, it was the most spectacular thing I had ever seen.

We settled into our new life in Berkeley and I quickly fell in love with California.  Mr. Gifford came to visit us more than once. One of my favorite places was John Hinkel Park, with its woodsy glens, views of the bay through the trees, and the amphitheater carved out of the landscape. Once Mr. Gifford climbed up on the stage of the amphitheater and sang arias to Mother and me as we sat on the stone steps. His visits distracted me from thoughts about my father’s absence.

He became a fixture in our lives. He would show up wherever we were. He claimed that when he was around my mother he felt inspired to write. When space allowed, he stayed with us. He joined us on all our vacations. When there was distance between us, he wrote long letters to both Mother and me. And poems. When I got older, I called him “Uncle Jimmy.”

Mother appreciated his quirkiness, the fun that he brought into our lives, and all that he did for me. Though he never told us his age (and Mother wasn’t about to tell hers), it turns out that he was only a year older than her. I don’t know if they loved one another in a romantic way, but turning their friendship into a committed relationship would have been difficult. Both were strait-laced and preferred jokes and teasing over talk of personal feelings. Mother remained married to my father for many years, as divorce would have been a disgrace to the family. Neither had enough money to make a home. Also, Mr. Gifford was restless. I don’t think he wanted to settle down. Aunt Muriel resented him a bit, though she tried not to show it. I think she saw him as a threat to the family unit she had created. She thought he was too “bohemian.” Mother, however, had the wisdom to accept him the way he was and welcome him into our lives. At the very least, as far as I was concerned, he filled the shoes of my absent father and made me feel happy, loved, and important. For that, my mother was deeply grateful.

When I was in my teens, he was diagnosed with diabetes and lost a lot of weight. In 1959 he was found dead in a rented room at Sloane House in New York City, having slipped into a diabetic coma.

The SS West Notus had predeceased him: she was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Cape Hatteras in 1942.

The gateI still have the following books by Mr. Gifford, all of them autographed: Emily Noble, The Game of Hearts, New York: Gramercy, 1940 (dedicated to my mother); Warren Howard, The Gate, New York: Arcadia House, 1942 (dedicated to me); Warren Howard, Tidewater, New York: Arcadia House, 1945 (dedicated to my mother).


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Translating My Book into Portuguese

Cover - thumbnailI recently mentioned to a friend that I’m working on getting my book translated into Portuguese. Her immediate response was: “Why not Spanish? So many more people speak Spanish.”

My main reason is that I want my husband’s daughters, their children, and others in the family who may have some difficulty with English to read my story in comfort.

Also, the book has many references to Brazil and Portugal, and I believe there’s an audience for a Portuguese version. My husband’s story of life under Brazil’s military dictatorship in the late 1960s and 1970s should not be forgotten. Many intellectuals lost their jobs and were arrested, imprisoned, deprived of their income, and made to suffer in other ways. It was unquestionably the blackest period in the nation’s history.

The number of Portuguese readers is not to be sneezed at. While it is true that Spanish tops the list of speakers of European languages, followed by English, Portuguese is a close third, beating out Russian, German, French, Italian, and the others. According to my arithmetic, it is spoken by at least 250 million people. Based on data from Wikipedia, I see that, besides Brazil (population 193,946,886 in 2012) and Portugal (10,562,178), Portuguese is an official language in Angola (20,609,294), Cape Verde (491,875), East Timor (1,066,409), Guinea-Bissau (1,704,000), Macau (582,000), Mozambique (23,700,715), and São Tomé and Principe magellans_travels(187,356). Total: 252,850,713 and counting. The widespread use of Portuguese is the heritage of Magellan and his compatriot voyagers in the Age of Discovery, who covered much of the globe and left their country’s language and traditions behind.

imagesIn my work, I am increasingly asked to translate documents from countries that I know little about. Each new country has been an eye-opener to me – and an adventure. So far, I have “adopted” Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau, and I recently had a job from East Timor (Timor-Leste). I took the opportunity to research its turbulent history and read about its charismatic leader Xanana Gusmão and his activist Australian wife, Kirsty Sword. These adventures keep me entertained. They are also humbling: they remind me how vast the world is and how much I have yet to learn.


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Pitching My Book in Hollywood

Cover - thumbnailLast weekend I traveled to Los Angeles to pitch my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, to Hollywood studios. It was a bold move and took a lot of effort. My publisher “invited” me to take part in the event a few months ago – for a fee. Officially, it’s called the Book-to-Screen PitchFest Los Angeles 2013, and it’s sponsored by Author Solutions, a division of Penguin Books. I figured I’d never know if my book was screen-worthy unless I gave it a shot, and I also thought it would be a chance to sharpen my skills at talking about my book. So I signed up.

I was not disappointed. It was a fantastic experience. Ours was the third event of its kind. It was attended by over 100 authors and representatives from at least seven Hollywood studios. We were told that several authors’ works had been tapped for consideration at the previous two PitchFests.

Getting there, however, was an ordeal. During the month running up to the event I spent most of my time talking myself into a nervous tizzy: fretting over the content of my pitch; consulting a hypnotist to calm my nerves; looking for appropriate clothes; getting my car serviced (I hadn’t driven to LA alone in six years); having my hair done—and on and on. I even ordered a satin pillowcase to protect my ‘do while sleeping in the hotel. Yet it seemed as if nothing went the way it was supposed to. The items I ordered on line either came in the wrong size or color or never arrived at all. My dogs, picking up on my trepidations and the open suitcase, got visibly nervous and started acting out. And the coup de grace was a blow to my shin two nights before my trip that sent me to the ER—possibly a clever subconscious attempt on my part to get out of the trip.

Pitchfest 2But I did it. As I drove up, I practiced my two-minute pitch in my head for nearly four hours. My husband’s niece Vanessa was waiting for me when I arrived at the hotel (the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on the Avenue of the Stars). She lives in LA, and I had invited her to be my guest at the reception. Being with Vanessa calmed me down enormously, but I was still quaking in my boots as we walked to the reception. I was sure I was going to either faint or do something really embarrassing. At the reception we met several fellow authors and I began to feel more at ease.

The speakers at the reception talked about what we could expect from the studio representatives. The first step in the development of a Hollywood project is an option to explore the idea. The author may receive as much as $500 in exchange for exclusive rights over a fixed period of time, typically 18 months. If the project moves forward, there will be further compensation down the road, but that could take years. They said that the “gestation” period for a Hollywood project can be as long as a decade. I had no idea.

The good news is that studio reps are looking for ideas and asking to come to the event. As I mentioned earlier, they optioned several titles at the previous two PitchFests.

Our registration packet contained an article by a Disney executive emphasizing that the best way for studios to turn a profit is to skip the mega-budget movies and focus on “high concept” ideas that can be developed into “stories that make us care.”

“Most important . . . is the need to create one or more central characters who confront something elemental about themselves by the end of the film. This applies to the whole enormous and extraordinary range of film experience. Name any truly successful movie and you will find that this is the case.”

PitchFest 3After citing several films, the author concludes:
“These films didn’t just involve transformation . . . they involved transformations that were affirmative and uplifting. More than anything else, I believe that these are the feelings that audiences seek out when they go to the movies. These are the feelings that audiences want to take home with them and treasure.”

I began to feel more reassured, because my book certainly fits the desired model. I also heard that they’re looking for true stories. They want authenticity. So I wasn’t in the wrong place after all. I went to bed more relaxed, telling myself that it would all be over this time tomorrow night.

Brringgg!! At 5:30 a.m. four different bells went off in my hotel room to make sure I’d be up, packed, and ready for the breakfast meeting by 7:00.

Over breakfast we listened to more advice and met more fellow authors, and then we broke up into groups to practice our pitches. I liked that part the best. As we watched, the facilitator listened carefully to each pitch and skillfully pinpointed the elements that deserved the most focus while gently suggesting the parts that could be eliminated. Everyone’s story was interesting. The variety of concepts was amazing. The facilitator’s comments to the other authors gave me ideas about where I could refine and change my own pitch. When my turn came, he told me to drop my log line (one-sentence summary) and start immediately with my scene, and he made a few other good suggestions as well.

After lunch, we were on our own to refine and memorize our pitches until our appointed time with the studio reps. It was also a chance to chat with some of our fellow authors. We bonded instantly – we knew that we shared a huge experience in common. They all loved my title.

My pitch went well. I delivered it at seven different tables, four with one rep and three with two reps sitting across from me.

If there’s any interest in my story, I will be contacted in about two weeks. I will also receive feedback on my presentation; each of the reps was asked to fill out a quick form on each of the authors.

Whew!! It was finally over. I drove home relaxed and satisfied that I was richer for the experience. And I had faced and conquered my fears.


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More reviews of my book

Cover - thumbnailHere are three more reviews of my book. A full summary of the reviews so far can be seen under the tab “Reviews.” In the present batch, the following lines stand out:

“A moving, transcendant personal statement of the very meaning of existence.”

“More than invincible, her summer is triumphant.”

“She draws the reader into her story and never forgets that those reading her words could find comfort – and, believe that miracles can happen.”


Finding My Invincible Summer is a remarkable memoir

By José Neistein  

Written in clear, transparent, elegant English, Finding My Invincible Summer turns out to be not only a vibrant and candid portrait of the author, but also – and above all – a moving, transcendant personal statement of the very meaning of existence. This is one of the reasons, if not the main one, why this book is appealing to so many readers, coming from all walks of life.

It tells us the basics about the mysteries and the trade of living, of conquering the right to rejoice by overcoming grief, injustice, pain, and frustrations with the help of determination, understanding, discipline, discernment, awareness, and love. Much love. It is a convincing lesson in how circumstances can make us sink into deep despair, but then by standing up for ourselves, by relaxing and letting go when necessary and acquiring the tools to reemerge forever whole.

This fascinating account of the author’s life, fears, loves, passions and ordeals tells us also how she made peace with destiny and herself by dispelling her ghosts, and finally looking into the sun’s eyes. But Muriel Vasconcellos’ book is more than the story of her journey: it is the journey of mankind. I think that her major merit is that she had the courage and generosity of putting them candidly down on paper. We can all identify with her book. More than invincible, her summer is triumphant.


An inspirational story

By Queta

As a narrator of her life story, Muriel did not get lost in a cathartic tale that some authors seem to fall into. She wrote a compelling book of amazing love, devastating health, overwhelming grief and finding her personal joy. The special events that shaped her life were certainly not ordinary or boring. She draws the reader into her story and never forgets that those reading her words could find comfort – and, believe that miracles can happen.


I will recommend this biography to my book club

By Pat B.

Finding My Invincible Summer is an inspirational memoir by Muriel Vasconcellos. It is a compelling story of enduring love and devastating loss. Muriel overcomes overwhelming challenges with courage and determination. Her persistence and fortitude in facing so many difficult situations eventually leads to great personal growth and self realization. The reader feels involved in the story and ultimately uplifted by Muriel’s triumph over the great obstacles that she has faced.


(The book is available in softcover, hardcover, and eBook format through all online booksellers, including and my publisher’s website,

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More reviews of my book

Cover - thumbnailThis post cites three more  reviews of my book, Finding My Invincible Summer, that have appeared on–all of them five stars. Today’s quotes have also been added to the cumulative collection under the “Review” tab on this site. A couple of the standout lines were:

“Reads like a thriller, yet is deep, raw and inspiring. This book is a gem.”

“The author knows how to capture the reader’s attention early and not let it go.”


A must read! Totally captivating story!

By Nashley

This book is exceptional! A must read! A deeply touching, bittersweet story, brilliantly written. This book reflects the depth of a soulful woman who has learned to live through deeply wounding experiences and has come to terms with her emotions and heal her pain. Reads like a thriller, yet is deep, raw and inspiring. This book is a gem. It is a gift to anyone who is in need of inspiration and hope, as well as to those who just wants an exceptionally good book to read. Pages come to life like in a movie, snapshots of history add meaning and relevance, and every chapter is filled with new surprises and give deeper meaning to the one before. Muriel’s story is an inspiration and heart opener. I found this book to be a thought provoking and enriching experience in my Universe. 


Gripping story and a helpful guide

By Jazzrascal

Finding My Invincible Summer is a story of tragedy and loss, fierce determination, patience, persistence, and triumph. Muriel’s story takes us through her experience with breast cancer and her search for alternative treatments. Along the way, she is faced with challenges and frustrations that would have made most of us give up, but with dogged determination she bucked the system, stood up for herself, and found solutions. Muriel tells her story with honesty and authenticity, and even at times with humor, although we never doubt for a moment that it must have taken great courage to tell it. Not only is the book a page-turner, it’s one that can be of great help and encouragement to people who are facing similar problems. Highly recommended! 


A compelling read 

By Peggy Dougherty

I bought this memoir knowing little about it or about the author. I was quite delighted to find it to be a compelling read. The writing is excellent. The author knows how to capture the reader’s attention early and not let it go. She tells her heartfelt story with insight and candor. The writing flows and draws you in.

Vasconcellos takes the reader on her remarkable journey. It’s impressive how she relates numerous events, some of them not only life-changing, but also life-saving, in a seamless, easy to follow manner. Like every good story, this one has many turning points. I found myself always wondering what would happen next, all the way to the uplifting ending. Hers is a thought-provoking story worthy of sharing with readers. I, for one, am grateful that she did so. 

(The book is available in softcover, hardcover, and eBook format through all online booksellers, including and my publisher’s site,

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Reviews of my book

I have Cover - thumbnailopened up a new tab on this website which will show a cumulative collection of reviews and feedback on my book, Finding My Invincible Summer. As I update the Review tab, I will copy the new entries into my blog here. Today I posted the first three reviews that appeared on–all of them five stars. Two lines stood out and rang in my head for days:

“I found this to be one of the best memoirs I have ever read.”

“This book grabs you by the soul and doesn’t let you go.”

Here are the reviews.

Absolutely riveting! Just finished reading it five minutes ago

By J. Kaplan

In order for a memoir to capture my attention, I must love the voice of the writer and be made to care enough to travel the entire distance with them as they tell their life story. This happens when the writer is exposing their vulnerabilities honestly and the story itself is also utterly compelling. With Finding My Invincible Summer, not only did the author take you into her completely confidence but the story was so intense and relatable that I could not put it down. During a week of reading where there were many other distractions in my life and in the greater world, I kept yearning to return to this quiet, deeply involving and highly personal story, even as difficult and painful as that life was in parts. Ultimately, the reader is given their own sense of possibilities – that there are indeed attainable solutions to even the most difficult of life’s problems. I found this to be one of the best memoirs I have ever read – and I am a tough critic of memoirs. I recommend sitting in front of the fire and taking some quiet time with this book and you will indeed be rewarded.


Soon afterwards came the following review on Amazon by a colleague in the translation community:

Absolutely marvelous. Read this memoir!
By JuliaA
I bought this memoir by Muriel Vasconcellos (whose work I knew only as a translator) in mid-December and was unable to put it down until I finished reading it, literally pushing my Christmas shopping by a few days. This book grabs you by the soul and doesn’t let you go. The author describes the suffering inflicted by cancer, shares intimate details of the amazing love story with her Brazilian soul mate, and talks of love and loss and her endless attempts at finding physical and emotional balance and peace, which she finally achieves. As a reader, I was in awe of Muriel’s honesty and gained more and more respect for her as the pages progressed. I could sense that digging this deep inside herself must have been agonizing and yet what a liberating experience! You literally see her grow as a human being and you grow along with her. Highly recommended!


Another Amazon review from around the same time was by a translator I met online, who also published a longer write-up on her blog,

A compelling read about love, cancer and alternative therapies

By Emma Goldsmith

Muriel Vasconcellos’ memoir takes the reader on a journey through her life, focusing on how she came to terms with breast cancer, her encounters with conventional treatment in the late 1970s and her search for alternative therapies. She also gives vivid accounts of life-changing events and how she manages to study and work as a translator in seemingly impossible circumstances.

I avidly read “Finding My Invincible Summer” over the course of several evenings, and in the daytime my mind was full of her flashbacks and experiences. It’s definitely worth reading if you’re interested in alternative medicine, translation, medical practice in the 1970s and 80s, or cross-cultural relationships (Brazilian/American in this case).

(The book is available in softcover, hardcover, and eBook format through all online booksellers, including and my publisher’s site,

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