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My Year Off (1999)

My Year Off (1999)

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3.59 of 5 Votes: 4
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0330352407 (ISBN13: 9780330352406)

About book My Year Off (1999)

As the mum of a child who is not neurologically typical, the wife of a man who suffered a reasonably serious concussion last year, and the daughter and sister of physiotherapists, I have some interest in the topic of brain injury and neuroplasticity, so when this book was suggested to me, I made an effort to track it down. This was not easy, as it is out of print, and the library copy on which I placed a hold was missing. It took two weeks for the library staff to confirm this and they mysteriously failed to tell me that the large print copy was available, but never mind. I got my mitts on it, read it....and discovered why the book is out of print.When a stroke wiped out the use of his left side, Robert McCrum was the editor-in-chief of Faber and Faber. As such, he led a very privileged sort of life: he had attended the best schools; he lived in metropolitan London (in Salman Rushdie's house as a matter of fact); he was visited in hospital by numerous important and/or famous friends; and he could afford private therapy. True, his struggle to regain the use of his left leg and later, his left arm was a long and arduous one, hampered by the severe depression that accompanies such a serious "brain insult" as his doctors called it, but in the face of his meandering, intellectual, humourless and (forgive me) rather pompous narrative, it's rather hard to stir up the requisite empathy. Ironically, McCrum found Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly "unmoving" because it was "coldly cerebral".McCrum and his wife (whose diary entries of this trying time are included and provide some much needed warmth) seem to live in a rather insular world. One of the overwhelming tasks facing McCrum's spouse in the wake of this personal disaster is "leaving money for the cleaner", among other mundane household tasks. While I agree that being saddled with everything to do with running a house is further stress in a stressful time, I think most families of stroke victims would welcome having a cleaner at all. Likewise, McCrum declares that his vacation in Barbados was a vital part of his recovery, "a holiday that for ordinary people would seem like pure junketing". Clearly McCrum hangs out with a different class of ordinary people than I do.So, kudos to Robert McCrum for triumphing over adversity and for discussing his vulnerabilities frankly, but I have to wonder how many stroke victims could identify with his experiences.

It is hard to imagine that a person can write down his feelings during the strok so authentic and honest. Life becomes so real and sharp when one is forced to stop his connections with the outside world. Living alive is the only goal of his daily life. I quite agree with the three things that he learns from his illness, one is illness is painful for every one especially for those who get AIDs, cancer, heart disease and stroke. The second is that each of us, in some sense, is in the doctor's waiting room. And the third is that we should be grateful to be still alive.

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The description of what Robert went through was so dead on. What has kept me from really enjoying this book is I don't think I liked Robert. I read this book because I was interested in other people's experiences surviving a stroke. One of the things that bothered me was that he never used the word survived, it was always suffered. I'm not talking about the majority of the book when he was angry, but the end of the book. His descriptions were good, like how long and scary the night could be, but I just didn't like him.

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