My Year Off, Rediscovering Life After a Stroke

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9780330369688: My Year Off, Rediscovering Life After a Stroke

On the morning of July 29, 1995, Robert McCrum--forty-two-years old, newly married, at the top of his profession as one of British publishing's most admired editors, and 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. In My Year Off, McCrum takes readers through his own education about strokes and the frustrating reality that medical science can neither pinpoint the cause of his stroke nor offer any guarantee of recovery. He poignantly writes about his life being irrevocably changed, and, in a new afterword, how his book has touched others. McCrum's recovery is beset by anger and depression, but also marked by the love of his wife, Sarah Lyall, a love that proves equal to their dismaying circumstances. With excerpts from both their journals sprinkled throughout, My Year Off is much more than a story of recovery: It is a love story of the most realistic--and hence, inspiring--kind.

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Review:

On July 28, 1995, Robert McCrum suffered a severe stroke at the age of 42. His thoughtful memoir chronicles the long, arduous process of recovery. Drawing on his own diaries and those of his wife, Sarah Lyall (then the publishing columnist for the New York Times), McCrum presents a detailed portrait of the physical and psychological effects of a stroke. His speech was impaired and his left arm and leg were paralyzed, but almost worse was the emotional havoc those disabilities wrought. As the hard-driving, hard-living editor of English publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum had defined himself for 20 years by what he did--now he was forced to ask himself who he was. He ruefully admits that his upbringing in the privileged British upper-middle class, traditionally suspicious of introspection, had ill prepared him for such a struggle, and he pays loving tribute to his American spouse's crucial role in his recovery. (Indeed, the excerpts from Lyall's diaries, which honestly reveal doubt, fear, and anger, are among the book's most moving sections.) Famous friends like Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje make appearances at McCrum's London hospital bedside, but Lyall is the narrative's heroine, and the hard-working staff of physical and speech therapists the invaluable supporting players. The author's lucid explanation of stroke's medical aspects and thorough account of his slow progress toward nearly full recovery will inform and inspire other stroke victims, but at heart this is a touching marital love story and an exciting drama of personal rebirth. --Wendy Smith

From the Publisher:

"My Year Off" has been chosen by "Publisher's Weekly" as one of their Best Books of the Year for 1998.

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