April: “Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life” by Mallory Smith

Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life
by Mallory Smith

Our April 2019 Book of the Month

“I have big dreams and big goals. But also big limitations, which means I’ll never reach the big goals unless I have the wisdom to recognize the chains that bind me. Only then will I be able to figure out a way to work within them instead of ignoring them or naively wishing they’ll cease to exist. I’m on a perennial quest to find balance. Writing helps me do that.”

After reading this introduction to a memoir, ask yourself who you think could have written it. Is it a writer, an adult, a college student, someone with a chronic physical illness, depression, anxiety or a debilitating mental illness? Could it be someone with a learning disability, an eating disorder, someone living in poverty, or without an education or someone fighting addiction? The beauty is the answer could be all of the above.

However, many of you may already know, it is written by Mallory Smith, a talented young writer who died at 25 after a heroic lifelong battle with Cystic Fibrosis. It is a poignant, well written and cohesive narration of a life filled with both great pain and great joy. It is a journey her mother, Diane Shader Smith, culled and edited from a 2500 page journal written over 10 years that she left as a precious gift not just to her mother and the many people that loved her, but to all of us privileged to read Salt in My Soul, An Unfinished Life.

I asked who could have written this because I think it is important to remember when we choose to read this memoir that it is not a book about death or grief although those things are encompassed within the pages of this narrative. Mallory’s mantra was “Live Happy.” Ultimately like all of the great literature that Mallory read and to which she aspired as a writer is not about how to die but about how to live.

Mallory said that her invisible illness, something many readers will be able to relate to in their own private struggles, gave her, “empathy, and gratitude, and courage, and humor, and heartache, and happiness.” We can all learn some profound lessons about how to live a meaningful life from someone who said that she had a strong urge to do something more… to write something that will change people, that will have an infectious influence on the way they think and feel that will last. Mallory Smith’s legacy is her life as she lived it and as she wrote it in Salt in My Soul. It is our April Book of the Month and I hope it will make you cry, make you grateful to be alive, and force you to think about how you can live a life of purpose and make a difference in the world. After reading Salt in My Soul, I can’t help but live a more present life in honor of one that ended too soon and a beautiful, young woman that magnanimously wished that for all of us, family, friend and stranger alike.


The diaries of a remarkable young woman who was determined to live a meaningful and happy life despite her struggle with cystic fibrosis and a rare superbug — from age fifteen to her death at the age of twenty-five…

“Captures the heartbreaking beauty of being alive.” — Beck Dorey-Stein, New York Times bestselling author of From the Corner of the Oval

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three, Mallory Smith grew up to be a determined, talented young woman who inspired others even as she privately raged against her illness. Despite the daily challenges of endless medical treatments and a deep understanding that she’d never lead a normal life, Mallory was determined to “Live Happy,” a mantra she followed until her death. Mallory worked hard to make the most out of the limited time she had, graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University, becoming a cystic fibrosis advocate well known in the CF community, and embarking on a career as a professional writer. Along the way, she cultivated countless intimate friendships and ultimately found love.

For more than ten years, Mallory recorded her thoughts and observations about struggles and feelings too personal to share during her life, leaving instructions for her mother to publish her work posthumously. She hoped that her writing would offer insight to those living with, or loving someone with, chronic illness.

What emerges is a powerful and inspiring portrait of a brave young woman and blossoming writer who did not allow herself to be defined by disease. Her words offer comfort and hope to readers, even as she herself was facing death. Salt in My Soul is a beautifully crafted, intimate, and poignant tribute to a short life well lived — and a call for all of us to embrace our own lives as fully as possible.


Mallory Smith, who grew up in Los Angeles, was a freelance writer and editor specializing in environmental, social justice, and healthcare-related communications. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University and worked as a senior producer at Green Grid Radio, an environmental storytelling radio show and podcast. Her radio work was featured on KCRW, National Radio Project, and State of the Human. She was a fierce advocate for those who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, launching the viral social media campaign Lunges4Lungs with friends and raising over $5 million with her parents for CF research through the annual Mallory’s Garden event. She passed away at the age of twenty-five on November 15, 2017, two months after receiving a double lung transplant. Mallory’s Legacy Fund has been established in her memory at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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