Foreword Reviews

Note by Note

A Tale of Trauma, Recovery and Musical Discovery

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

Note by Note is both a memoir and a manual for general healing.

Healing yourself and healing others go hand in hand, according to Kristi Magraw’s interactive memoir, Note by Note.

Magraw grew up on Washington’s Eagle Island in the 1950s. She was the child of Minnesota natives; her father was a conscientious objector, and her mother’s family rejected her for marrying him. They were an unconventional couple who raised their five daughters among like-minded activist families.

When Magraw was eight, a botched surgery on her left ear resulted in lifelong complications, including hearing loss and the loss of facial movement; she struggled to pursue her passion for singing and guitar playing. Still, she grew up to make a living as a musician and massage therapist. These and other healing professions were informed by her pursuit of personal healing, too.

Magraw’s medical and family traumas are shown to have followed her into her experimental early adulthood. The book’s early chapters are set in the late sixties and early seventies, and cover experiences with sex, drugs, folk music, and Eastern philosophies and practices. Subsequent chapters focus on guidance toward self-healing, and each of the book’s chapters includes a letter from “Innate Intelligence” that summarizes its trajectory.

The text experiments with form. There are elements of a narrative, alongside scientific explanations, song lyrics, extended quotes, and letters. These many pieces come to represent the chaos of remembering traumas and healing from them. Emotions and reactions, including attachment, pain, anger, and PTSD, are addressed as they arise in Magraw’s history; their details are not always linear. Songs arise to introduce joy amid heavy topics. The book has the quality of itself seeking clarity.

The book is unevenly paced. Magraw’s wild personal history is moved through with speed, while scientific explanations of her medical challenges, including with the psoas muscle and vagus nerve pathways, are more plodding. Healing exercises are introduced, including a “Stop Action” technique; they result in textual pauses.

The book’s Magraw Method is presented in piecemeal fashion. It combines Eastern and Western practices, massage, and other therapies, with metaphors and dream studies standing out as Magraw’s signature contributions to the Magraw Method. It is described over several chapters, in terms of its techniques and via Magraw’s recollections and songs. It is designed to be tailored to each user, and its tone is life-affirming, encouraging, and positive.

About “healing without hiding what’s broken,” Note by Note is both a memoir and a manual for general healing.

Reviewed by Mari Carlson

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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