Crashing Through: A Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See


In his critically acclaimed bestseller Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson explored the depths of history, friendship, and compulsion. Now Kurson returns with another thrilling adventure–the stunning true story of one man’s heroic odyssey from blindness into sight.

Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful ...

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In his critically acclaimed bestseller Shadow Divers, Robert Kurson explored the depths of history, friendship, and compulsion. Now Kurson returns with another thrilling adventure–the stunning true story of one man’s heroic odyssey from blindness into sight.

Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision.

Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May’s vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children’s faces. He began to contemplate an astonishing new world: Would music still sound the same? Would sex be different? Would he recognize himself in the mirror? Would his marriage survive? Would he still be Mike May?

The procedure was filled with risks, some of them deadly, others beyond May’s wildest dreams. Even if the surgery worked, history was against him. Fewer than twenty cases were known worldwide in which a person gained vision after a lifetime of blindness. Each of those people suffered desperate consequences we can scarcely imagine.

There were countless reasons for May to pass on vision. He could think of only a single reason to go forward. Whatever his decision, he knew it would change his life.

Beautifully written and thrillingly told, Crashing Through is a journey of suspense, daring, romance, and insight into the mysteries of vision and the brain. Robert Kurson gives us a fascinating account of one man’s choice to explorewhat it means to see–and to truly live.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Blinded in a childhood accident, Mike May never hesitated to try anything-driving a motorcycle, hiking alone in the woods, downhill skiing-until the day, when May was 46, an ophthalmologist told him a new stem-cell and cornea transplant could restore his vision. As Esquire contributing editor Kurson (Shadow Divers) relates, the decision to have the surgery wasn't easy. May, always a "pioneer in his heart," had never really felt he was missing anything in life. The surgery also had a few risks: the restoration of sight might only be temporary; the immunosuppressive drug was highly toxic; May might never adjust to the changes having sight would cause. Previously, patients had become depressed, their lives ruined because, while it might seem strange to sighted people, these patients found that the idea of vision was better than the reality. May went forward, only to find that, even though his eye was now perfect, his brain had forgotten how to process visual input. Fascinated by colors and patterns, he had difficulty discerning facial features, letters, even men from women. How May adjusts to his medical miracle, living with the disappointments as well as the joys, makes for a remarkable story of courage and endurance. (May 22)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
Blinded at age three, Michael May became a champion skier, CIA analyst, entrepreneur, and more, but his biggest challenge was deciding whether to go through with an operation that could restore his sight. Based on a National Magazine Award-winning story. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781415940464
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged

Meet the Author

Robert Kurson
Robert Kurson
"I began my quest for a writing career after quitting a lucrative practice as an attorney," Robert Kurson told us in our interview. "I hated being a lawyer, so I was willing to do whatever was necessary in order to break into writing, a profession I (rightly) suspected I would love." Given the success of his bestselling nonfiction books Shadow Divers and Crashing Through, it seems safe to say that Kurson made the right call.


Robert Kurson earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, then a law degree from Harvard Law School. His award-winning stories have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and Esquire, where he is a contributing editor. Crashing Through is based on Kurson's 2006 National Magazine Award-winning profile in Esquire. He is the author of Shadow Divers, and he lives in Chicago. Visit the author's web site at

Author biography courtesy of Random House.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Kurson:

"For about a year after I quit law to pursue a career in writing, I hung drapes and installed window blinds to make a living. It gave me lots of solitary quiet time (other than the sound of my drill) to think about storytelling and story structure and the elements of a good tale well told."

"Some of my other jobs before becoming a writer:

  • Hot dog vendor at Wrigley Field
  • Shoe salesman
  • Flower delivery man
  • Traveling salesman for my dad's motorcycle paints and lubricants business
  • Options trader at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE)."

    "I was inspired to write, I think, by having two parents who were exceptional storytellers and who both had exquisite sensitivities to the world and the people in it. My mom and dad saw things in situations and in human beings that very few others saw, and they talked about it to their children. Both of them instinctively knew how to tell a fantastic story -- they had built-in, DNA-level instincts for character, drama, tension, and story arc. Listening to them talk about their lives, the people they'd known, and the things they saw in the world was more interesting and moving than any film I could imagine. My dad died several years ago. My mom remains the best storyteller I know in the world. She just gets better and better. She could tell you a story about walking down the hall in her condo and would have you riveted, all without ever trying too hard."

    "Here's a strange fact about me: I cannot read -- books, magazines, or anything else -- while I'm writing my own books or stories. If I do, I start to vaguely sound like the writers I'm reading. So I just go cold turkey on my own reading while I'm writing -- that way (for better or worse) I sound strictly like myself."

    "Here are some things I've loved since boyhood that I can't seem to stop loving as a 44-year-old man:

  • Magic tricks
  • Model rockets
  • Watching small airplanes take off and land at the local airport
  • The Universal Studios classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, et al.)
  • The Beatles
  • Taking batting practice at coin-operated pitching machines
  • Amusement parks."

    Perhaps the single thing I like best in the world is taking long drives along the country's blue highways, those two-lane roads that wind through America. I took many of these drives as a young boy (often for weeks at a time) with my father as I accompanied him on his many business trips, telling stories along the way. The rhythm of the road and the solitary company I find in it speaks to my soul like nothing else. I'm starting to take my own son on these trips and find it to be just about the happiest experience I've ever had in life. Along the way, I think about my writing, and it is during these rides that I often find my best inspiration."

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      1. Hometown:
        Chicago, Illinois
      1. Education:
        B.A. in Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1986; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1990
      2. Website:

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