Mosaic Heart

Pieces of an Unfinished Life

Non-Fiction - Memoir
366 Pages
Reviewed on 04/11/2022
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Author Biography

Donna Mazzitelli believes that finding our voices is critical to living authentic lives. As founder of Writing With Donna and Merry Dissonance Press, Donna is an award-winning writing coach, editor, and publisher. She helps writers connect to their unique core voice so they can share messages crafted with heart. Donna’s life experiences, which include two cancer diagnoses and significant personal family loss, have helped grow her heart and compassion, as well as her intuition.

Donna recognizes that everyone has stories to tell. The more we share our stories from our hearts—whether fiction or nonfiction—the more our readers will connect with us and be transformed. This is how we heal ourselves and our world.

Donna continues to work on her own writing. To date, she has written and published three children’s books: Warm Toes, The Great Stirring, and The Recycling Project. Mosaic Heart: Pieces of an Unfinished Life is Donna’s first memoir. She has begun work on her next memoir, Madonna Blue Heart, which she intends to release in less than a decade!

After fifty years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Donna resides in Castle Rock, Colorado, with her husband, Dominic, and their loving lap dog, Leo. To learn more about Donna, please visit

    Book Review

Reviewed by Marie-Hélène Fasquel for Readers' Favorite

Mosaic Heart: Pieces of an Unfinished Life by Donna Mazzitelli is a moving and optimistic memoir. It is beautifully written. The cover is magnificent and perfectly conveys the messages we find in this book of self-discovery. Donna gratefully but also generously shares with us her healing path, her deepest reflections, honestly, and is at the same time hopeful. Donna’s work is not like others; it is about the healing process and about finding your true self. It is about getting better through illness!

Mosaic Heart is the story of Donna, of how she got cancer in her fifties and fought it as an enemy, which it was, of course. But, in the long term, this terrible illness led her to make changes and become who she was meant to be. This magnificent story will definitely help, inspire, and support people with cancer but also others, such as myself. Indeed, the story makes you think about your life, or rethink it in depth. It relates how, through being so ill, the author discovers - step by step - who she really is, what actually matters and what to do with the rest of her life. This is one of my favorite quotes from this amazing opus: “Healing requires a willingness to look at the pieces and know them, to understand their messages, and to take in how they can serve me and my life today.” This is a must-read for all! Thank you for sharing such a gem, Donna Mazzitelli!

Jamie Michele

Mosaic Heart: Pieces of an Unfinished Life by Donna Mazzitelli is a non-fiction memoir that revolves around a diagnosis of cancer and the ways it altered the author's thinking and motivation in all she did moving forward, and the journey in between. The titular mosaic represents a mosaic heart that Mazzzitelli was actually challenged to make by a friend. The mosaic embodies two hearts, one that represents her broken heart and one that represents a heart that has been repaired. Beginning with the diagnosis of breast cancer, Mazzitella shifts the narrative between flashbacks of her life before cancer, as far back even as childhood and devastating losses, and where she was during the treatment. We then learn about the pieces of herself she had to let go, physically and emotionally, and the empowering way cancer ultimately shaped her life.

I lost my own mother when she was 43 to breast cancer. Then I lost my aunt six months later. Then I lost my great-aunt. Then I lost my own breasts when it was “my turn” to deal with the inevitable. All of the initial feelings Donna Mazzitelli describes in Mosaic Heart, I felt too. Where our stories move apart is in the aftermath. She embraced cancer. I've been unable to do this. Reading her book offered me a new way of viewing what I've struggled with and Mazzitelli chronicles this with touching, cleanly written prose and a profound honesty that makes it impossible for a reader not to connect with her. The second part of the book is absolutely unexpected and heart-breaking, and I admit I struggled to personally accept that “There are no accidents in life. Only messages to remind us that we are loved and supported always.” Mazzitelli stresses that we are all on our own journeys and while mine is not entirely where hers is, it is a comfort to know I am not alone...and neither is she.

Asher Syed

Donna Mazzitelli puts her story out into the universe as she reflects on what she has overcome in Mosaic Heart. She also sets the wheels in motion for what she wants in the future and is committed to seeing these reached, and doing it in her own way. Mazzitelli conveys to the reader her first and worst fear when the dreaded c-word is spoken by her doctor, that “c” being breast cancer. Mazzitelli is reluctant when she is under pressure to pursue traditional medicine and surgery but resigns herself to medical professionals who seem to know better. Mazzitelli is emotionally battered and caught in a cycle of “it could be worse” in a healing group, and marital trouble at home. A second shock diagnosis comes years later in another part of her body and this is when Mazzitelli stops doing what she's told and starts doing what is right.

The prologue of Mosaic Heart explains the two-prong reason Donna Mazzitelli has put a real mosaic heart on the cover and as a title. They are a physical manifestation and hold meaning as an allegory of her heart, broken and repaired. The relationship cycle Mazzitelli has with her husband Dominic would make any person believe in divine fate [spiritual, not necessarily religious]. He is by her side while she is fighting for her life not once, but twice. But in between Mazzitelli is gifted with being on her own. Being in the situation is difficult but in finishing the book we see it is the trial separation that got Mazzitelli to use her voice. Having cancer once is the nightmare no person wants; having it twice seems like the end. Not for Mazzitelli, and I am reminded of a quote by Kenji Miyazawa: “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey”. Many thanks to Donna Mazzitelli for speaking her truth.

Cecelia Hopkins

Mosaic Heart by Donna Mazzitelli commences with the writer visiting Florence to recuperate and revitalize after an illness. Then the story reverses back in time to her diagnosis of breast cancer. After the initial shock has passed, Donna must choose her course of treatment. She begins practicing healthy eating habits and alternative therapies, even investigating stress that could be compromising her immune system. Finally, bravely, she accepts a surgical option. After a painful recovery, she rehabilitates by swimming. Donna and her husband Dominic separate and reconcile, planning to enjoy some travel together, but are stunned by Donna’s second cancer diagnosis. A gift of inner strength supports her through chemotherapy and radiation. She faces life after cancer with positivity. The narrative is interspersed with poignant poems and inspirational visualizations.

Mosaic Heart by Donna Mazzitelli presents a compelling portrait of a woman who has faced some of life’s most intimate and devastating illnesses. I appreciated the author’s honesty and the vulnerability of the narrative. I was impressed by the observation that cancer had granted her an opportunity to exercise control over her life in a manner she had always been denied due to social and cultural factors. I really liked the way she channeled her grandmother, feeling a comforting presence and support during some of the darkest moments. The candid description of treatment selections provides a valuable source of research material for anyone with a loved one facing a similar illness. By sharing her experiences in Mosaic Heart, Donna Mazzitelli provides hope and advice for other cancer sufferers and their families.

Philip Van Heusen

One of the most feared diagnoses globally is the big “C” (cancer). Donna Mazzitelli had cancer. She shares her journey in Mosaic Heart: Pieces of an Unfinished Life. A mosaic is composed of many varied pieces to make a fascinating work of art. Donna’s life has been diverse and full of interesting events. Like so many, she tried various methods of alternative as well as traditional Western medicine. Her journey through the dark night of decisions is thought-provoking and maintains your interest. She explains that her journey was not just difficult for her, but it was hard for the whole family. Not only has Donna dealt with cancer, but her twins were born by C-section and her husband had quintuple by-pass surgery. Donna’s story continues after the surgery into the healing stage. Physical healing usually occurs long before emotional healing. Take your time to heal and use your support. Allow your friends to be part of your healing.

How do you survive cancer? First, you must endure the disease and the physical, mental, and emotional damage cancer brings. Donna Mazzitelli shares strategies for surviving cancer in Mosaic Heart. Donna writes from experience after living through breast cancer, then later anal cancer. Along with these two cancers, Donna navigated the swirling waters of separation, reunion, rearing twin daughters, her husband’s heart surgery, and his job loss. Sharing her experiences will help others decide their course of action when faced with the big “C.” This book contains information that anyone facing health problems can benefit from. Written with compassion and full disclosure of one’s secret struggles, Donna has made this book an excellent reference for anyone who has a connection to cancer. Even though the events in this book were hard to deal with, good did come from bad.