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Beautiful Affliction

Lene Fogelberg is dying—she is sure of it—but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood—Will I die young?—is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late?

Unflinchingly honest and often harrowing, Beautiful Affliction is an inspiring account of growing up and living on the verge of death—and of the beauty, harshness, loneliness, and, ultimately, unbending love that can be found there.

Fogelberg, a poet, structures her saga well, writing in alternating chapters about growing up with her ‘monster,’ and arriving in the United States, where her condition is diagnosed and she has corrective open-heart surgery. Beautiful Affliction is an unusual, riveting medical drama crafted with deep emotion and exquisite detail.

Alice CaryBookpage

Fogelberg’s poetic sensibility shines… Vivid, heartfelt, and carefully crafted, this memoir will resonate with readers. Beautiful Affliction is more than an illness narrative; its meditations on mortality will appeal to all who love the fragile and impermanent.

Lucy BryanRain Taxi Review of Books

In Beautiful Affliction, a gorgeously rendered, poetic memoir/medical mystery, we meet Lene Fogelberg, a wife and mother living a fairy tale existence, except for the fact that she knows she is dying and her doctors don’t believe her.

Allison TylerOff the Shelf

Honest, heartbreaking, and thrilling… mesmerizing.


This honest and hard-hitting memoir is testament to the love and strength that can be found at the edge of tragedy.


Gripping, powerful, touching, beautiful. A memoir about a woman who fights to remain alive because of her daughters and her husband, a story everyone can relate to and will want to read to the inspiring end.

Mette Ivie Harrisonauthor of Ironmom and New York Times Notable Book The Bishop’s Wife

Lene Fogelberg’s memoir of living with an undiagnosed malfunctioning heart since childhood is a testament to the power of love. She allows us, the lucky reader, access to her innermost fears and guilts, offering up her story with such beautiful prose that one is enticed to linger over each word.

Rossandra Whiteaward-winning author of LOVEYOUBYE

Brilliantly paced, weaving glimpses of the author’s past into an ever-tightening noose that engulfs Lene and her young family in adulthood, this memoir left me as breathless as if I’d read a thriller about an unstoppable killer circling its victim. Beautiful Affliction grips the reader and won’t let go until the very last page.

Rita M. Gardnerauthor of the award-winning memoir The Coconut Latitudes

In her breathtaking memoir, Beautiful Affliction, Lene Fogelberg elegantly unites the savagery and raw beauty of the natural world with the wisdom and poignant insight of a young wife and mother for whom each moment, whether or not she realizes it, may be her last. Exquisite imagery and poetic prose pulse through this powerful, emotionally gripping story. With Beautiful Affliction, Lene Fogelberg gives us a gorgeously written story to savor and share, while adding her shimmering, deeply intelligent voice to the literary pantheon.

Terri Giuliano Longauthor of USA Today bestseller In Leah’s Wake

Heart-rending and suspense-filled, Fogelberg’s Beautiful Affliction is a graceful meditation on love, marriage, motherhood, and the quotidian precious moments that make a life with young children. Fogelberg’s miraculous story is a gift to readers, both for its exquisite prose and for its humble reminder: Life is short; love deeply.

Laura Nicole Diamondauthor of USA Today bestseller Shelter Us

Lene Fogelberg’s story is breathtaking in all the right ways—delicately and skillfully told—and a powerful reminder that life is fragile and can only be lived one breath at a time.

Carol Lynn Pearsonbestselling author, poet and playwright

Beautiful Affliction is an important and beautiful book about the ways in which our health impacts our lives, and the courage, strength, and healing that can result with persistence. A wonderfully honest and sincere memoir.

Laura Pritchettauthor of Stars Go Blue and winner of the PEN USA Award

Beautiful Affliction is a deeply moving and important memoir about a young woman fighting for her life against all odds. It’s a suspenseful page-turner and also the work of a poet. Her physical heart is shutting down, even as her emotional heart is filled to bursting with love—for her husband and two little girls, for her whole world that may vanish in an instant. Fogelberg’s breathtaking odyssey will remind the reader of the beauty, fragility, and ephemerality of life. I absolutely love this book. It was an inspiration to read, and it will stay with me for a long time.

Alice Eve Cohenaward-winning author of The Year My Mother Came Back and What I Thought I Knew

Beautiful Affliction is a singular story told with honesty and grace. Drawn into an existence where the next breath isn’t promised, you wonder if your resilience could match Lene’s: Could you chase a riddle halfway around the world, and ultimately, into your own heart? As we root for Lene, we root for ourselves.

Tré Miller Rodríguezauthor of Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir

Lene Fogelberg’s memoir will have even the most doubtful believing in miracles. Honest, unapologetic, inspiring, Beautiful Affliction is ultimately a testament to the sustaining power of love.

Ashley Warnerauthor of the award-winning memoir The Year After

Lene Fogelberg’s inspiring memoir of life with a literal broken heart teaches us to recognize beauty amidst our own pain and suffering. Having also experienced complicated heart issues and a lifetime of surgeries I found myself reliving my own sacred experience.

Paul Cardall#1 Billboard Pianist & Steinway Artist

In Beautiful Affliction Lene Fogelberg takes us on a heartwrenching roller coaster ride as we follow her journey into marriage, motherhood, and across the world with the shadow of death as a constant companion. A poignant and poetic testament to love and the will to live, it reminds us to listen to the whispers of our hearts and to never, ever give up on what we desire the most.

Lone Mørchauthor of Seeing Red: A Woman’s Quest for Truth, Power and the Sacred

Fogelberg has crafted a literary and beautifully compelling story, which is much more than a medical mystery. It is a heartfelt and touching story about a mother who loves her husband and children and struggles with the thought of leaving them behind. Her efforts to give them a sense of her love and how she wants that love to be remembered is what makes this book a magnificent memoir that I will be thinking about for a long time.

Steven L. Peckauthor of The Scholar of Moab and A Short Stay in Hell

    Connect with Lene on Goodreads

    Click here to read the first chapter, beautifully illustrated on Terri Giuliano Long’s blog

    BOOK CLUBS click here for Reading Group Discussion Questions on Beautiful Affliction (NB: Spoiler Alert)

    Beautiful Affliction is now available as audiobook!