5*Star Review from Authors Talk About It, April 2017
Nowhere Else I Want to Beis Carol Marsh’s heart-wrenching memoir of her time living and working at Miriam’s House in Washington, D.C. She founded Miriam’s House in 1996, as a place for homeless women suffering with AIDS and addiction to receive the care, shelter, and safety that they so desperately needed. In providing for these women, who came from backgrounds incredibly different than her own, Carol had to learn to face her own shortcomings: privilege, discrimination, poor leadership skills, and an overwhelming, yet often denied, desire to be liked. In doing so, she, along with the staff and residents of Miriam’s House, transformed it into a safe haven for victims of AIDS and their families, saving dozens of lives in more ways than one. In terms of content,Nowhere Else I Want to Beis certainly not the easiest book to read. It is rife with tragedy, from abandonment to parental neglect, devastating illness to inevitable death. It weighs on the heartstrings in a manner that most books cannot achieve, largely because the stories Carol Marsh shares are all real. These “characters,” who often seem larger than life in some respects, existed once, and now, do not. It’s an awful feeling, to fall in love with each quirky, lovable woman as Carol did, only to be forced to face their eventual demise. However, the tender tone in which each woman is described is admirable and honorable, shining a spotlight of love and acceptance on an otherwise horrific life. It’s devastating, but profound, in all the best ways. Nowhere Else I Want to Beis not a book easily defined, as it balances perfectly the qualities of humor, love, sadness, disdain, and acceptance, combined into one spectacular memoir. Carol Marsh takes her readers on the same journey she once walked, alongside society’s forgotten as they struggle to better themselves, contribute to communities who continuously reject them, and just survive, at any cost. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy, but it is forever worth it.Nowhere Else I Want to Beis a treasure as much as it is a tragedy, if for nothing else, for Carol’s bold, dignified, and honest approach to a truth best not left forgotten.
The book that really jump-started Carol Marsh’s imagination as a teenager was Catherine Marshall’s Christy. “I dreamt of being like Christy,” she recalls, “and going to work with poor mountain families—later, Indians on reservations, and later still, overseas with the Peace Corps—and helping people who needed me.” She saw herself living “a life of service in which I would make things perfect for some small village or group of children. For that they would, of course, love and appreciate me.”
Somewhere along the way, Marsh realized that her calling was working with women in need. So, in 1996, she founded Miriam’s House, a place for homeless women in the Washington, D.C., area who were struggling with HIV and AIDS. Each woman came to Miriam’s House with a painful back story all her own. Claudia was mentally ill. Rebecca had been incapacitated by a stroke and communicated by pointing to pictures or words in a little book that one of the interns put together for her. Laila had contracted the virus from a blood transfusion following a car accident during her childhood. Alyssa, one of the youngest residents, had been pimped out by her mother, who had “needed the money to pay the drug man.”
Marsh and her husband Tim lived at Miriam’s House, and she learned that there was much more to being the director than she’d imagined. She accompanied residents to the ER; sat by deathbeds; and dealt with staff issues and substance-abuse relapses, learning a few truths about herself in the process. But what gave her “real joy,” she discovered, “was relating on an intimate level with the residents.” Over time, “being in service” morphed into “being present” for the residents, and “[t]here was humility in ceasing to help the vulnerable and commencing to be with them. To stay with them.”
Marsh paints vivid word-pictures of the women of Miriam’s House, enabling us to enter their lives as much as it is humanly possible to. And we come away from the book moved by both the story she tells and the honesty with which she tells it. (T J Banks)