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My Year Off: Recovering Life After a Stroke
     

My Year Off: Recovering Life After a Stroke

by Robert McCrum
 

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A frank and moving memoir of the stroke that felled the author at his peak of vigor and achievement.
On the morning of July 29, 1995, Robert McCrum — 42 years old, just two weeks newly married, at the top of his profession as one of British publishing's most admired editors, in what he thought was the full bloom of health — awoke to find himself

Overview

A frank and moving memoir of the stroke that felled the author at his peak of vigor and achievement.
On the morning of July 29, 1995, Robert McCrum — 42 years old, just two weeks newly married, at the top of his profession as one of British publishing's most admired editors, in what he thought was the full bloom of health — awoke to find himself totally paralyzed on the left side, the victim of a stroke brought on by a massive cerebral hemorrhage. After a nightmarish day struggling to reach a phone, he finally summoned help. In the weeks to come, he would have to face the reality that his life had irrevocably changed and that medical science, maddeningly, could neither pinpoint the cause of the stroke nor offer any guarantee of recovery. What ensued was a battle beset by frustration and depression but equally marked by small victories, the help of dedicated physicians and therapists, and, first and last, the support of his new wife, whose love proved equal to their dismaying circumstances.My Year Off is an eloquent story of hope, written with the sort of candor and detail that the author believes has been missing in the literature of strokes up to this time. It is as well a grown-up love story of the most realistic — and hence, inspiring — kind.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A meticulous and highly literate account, written by a good storyteller--.A book difficult to lay aside until its final sentence has been reached."
--Sherwin B. Nuland (author of How We Die), The New York Times

"Elevating the health-book genre to art is My Year Off. Here's proof a book can delight as it heals"
--The Wall Street Journal

"Lucid, heartfelt . . . a testament to the parallel trials and the courage of the family members of stroke victims."
--Abraham Verghese, The New York Times Book Review

"Good reading for anyone who thinks about or has an illness . . . or who ponders change and the meaning of a meaningful life."
--USA Today

"McCrum eloquently recounts the year of rage, depression, and small victories that has finally left him facing the future with determination and grace."
--Seattle Times

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393350050
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/17/1998
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
956,630
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

Read an Excerpt

Wo aber Gefahr, wacht das Rettende auch.
(Where danger waits, salvation also lies.)
--Friedrich Hölderlin

When I was just forty-two I suffered a severe stroke. Paralysed on my left side and unable to walk, I was confined to a hospital for three months, then spent about a year recovering, slowly getting myself back into the world.

When I was seriously ill in hospital, I longed to read a book that would tell me what I might expect in convalescence and also give me something to think about. There are many books about strokes in old age, but I was young and had been vigorous and there was nothing that spoke to me in my distress.

I have written this book ot help those who have suffered as I did, and indeed for anyone recovering from what doctors call "an insult to the brain". I've also written it for families and loved ones who, sucked into the vortex of catastrophic illnes, find themselves searching for words of encouragement and explanation. People express every kind of sympathy for stroke-sufferers, but the carers are often the forgotten ones. To all concerned, this book is meant to send a ghostly signal across the dark universe of ill-health that says, "You are not alone." It's also intended to show those of us who are well what it can be like when our bodies shut down in the midst of the lives we take for granted. Some will say that it's a memento mori, and that's undeniable, but I hope that it will also be heartening, especially to those who have given up all hope of recovery. I don't mean to offer false or cheap optimism, but I am saying that, if my example is to be trusted, the brain seems to be anastonishingly resilient organ, and one capable, in certain circumstances, of remarkable recovery.

The other audience for this book is, of course, myself. The consequences of my stroke were simply too colossal to be ignored or shut away in some mental pigeon-hole. Writing the book has been a way to make sense of an extraordinary personal upheaval, whose consequences will be with me until I die. Besides, I am a writer. Communicating experience is what I do, and quite soon after I realized that I was going to survive the initial crisis I also relaized that I had been given a story that made most of what I'd written previously pale and uninteresting by comparison.

Whatever you, the reader, take away from it, there's no escaping that it is a personal book, my version of an event that changed my life. The philosopher Wittgenstein writes, "How small a thought it takes to make a life." Throughout my period of recovery I was often alone with my thoughts. When, finally, I came to record these, this book became the mirror of an enforced season of solitude in the midst of a crowded life. I've called it My Year Off because, despite the overall grimness of the experience, there were, at every stage, moments of acute irony and, even, of the purest comedy to brighten the prevailing gloom and chase away the clouds of melancholy. P.G. Wodehouse, one of my favourite writers, once said that "There are two ways of writing ... [One is ....] a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn." There is, I'm afraid, not much musical comedy about having a stroke.

At times, my year off was one of all-pervading slowness, of weeks lived one day, even one hour, at a time, and of life circumscribed by exasperating new restrictions and limitations. The poet Coleridge observed that it is the convalescent who sees the world in its true colours, and, as a convalescent, I have been forced into a renewed acquaintanceship with my body and into the painful realization that I am, like it or not, imprisoned in it. I have learned, in short, that I am not immortal (the fantasy of youth) and yet, strangely, in the process I have been renewed in my understanding of family and, finally, of the one thing that really matters: love.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A meticulous and highly literate account, written by a good storyteller—.A book difficult to lay aside until its final sentence has been reached."
—Sherwin B. Nuland (author of How We Die), The New York Times

"Elevating the health-book genre to art is My Year Off. Here's proof a book can delight as it heals"
The Wall Street Journal

"Lucid, heartfelt . . . a testament to the parallel trials and the courage of the family members of stroke victims."
—Abraham Verghese, The New York Times Book Review

"Good reading for anyone who thinks about or has an illness . . . or who ponders change and the meaning of a meaningful life."
USA Today

"McCrum eloquently recounts the year of rage, depression, and small victories that has finally left him facing the future with determination and grace."
Seattle Times

Meet the Author

Robert McCrum is the associate editor of The Observer and lives in London with his wife, Sarah Lyall. His books include the bestselling The Story of English, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, and Globish.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, England
Date of Birth:
July 7, 1953
Place of Birth:
Cambridge, England
Education:
Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, England, 1972-75; University of Pennsylvania, 1975-76

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