Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Leave Me This Way (Julia Fox Garrison)


A few years ago before I started this blog, I read a touching memoir by Julia Fox Garrison.  Ms. Garrison was a young mother who suffered a debilitating stroke at the young age of thirty seven. It was a powerful account of a person who overcame a devastating health event and confronted the challenge with great character and drive.  While doing research for my last post, Left Neglected by Lisa Genova, I was excited to learn there was a connection between the two authors. Julia Fox Garrison was an early fan of Ms. Genova’s work and helped garner interest in Genova’s new genre of fictional books with a neuroscience theme. This discovery made me reach out to Ms. Garrison and I was fortunate to get an update on her current endeavors and health. I hope everyone who is currently reading Lisa Genova’s work will also take the time to read this post and make sure to get Don’t Leave Me This Way (or when I get back on my feet you’ll be sorry) by Julia Fox Garrison.

Author Bio:

“Julia Fox Garrison is the author of Don’t Leave Me This Way (or when I get back on my feet you’ll be sorry). The book chronicles her struggle to regain control over her life and her body, following a massive hemorrhage resulting in a paralyzing stroke. Julia was never one to proclaim that she would write a book one day, but in the aftermath of her stroke, dealing with the medical community and insurance companies while rehabilitating, she realized she had a story to tell. Her experience was a blueprint for how not to let the system dictate the direction, pace, and objectives of one’s recovery. But the message in her book is universal and transcends far beyond a stroke survivor’s handbook.

Julia originally self-published her memoir in May 2005.  It reached the Boston Globe bestseller list within two months by word-of-mouth alone. The success created a stir among national publishers and it went to a publisher’s auction in August 2005. HarperCollins Publisher won the bid and after some editorial changes released it in June 2006 as, Don’t Leave Me This Way or when I get back on my feet you’ll be sorry."
Update from Julia:

Since the publication of Don't Leave Me This Way (or when I get back on my feet you'll be sorry), I have become a national speaker, evangelizing for humanity in medicine. The primary focus of health care is the patient’s recovery. Speaking from the patient perspective, I advocate for improvements that go beyond the medical textbooks and the diagnosis--treat the whole patient: the mind and spirit as well as the body.

I am often asked about the changes in voice that occur in the book, the thinking being that as a memoir, it should be entirely in the first person. The first few chapters are written in third person. It is human nature to fall into a daily routine and I thought it would be interesting if the reader was a voyeur into mine. After the brain surgery, I shift to second person. I want the reader to be on the gurney with me, experiencing the confusion and frustration as I did. In the end I switch to first person. I had learned so much on my journey, but did not feel it was my place to preach nor expect the reader to feel as I did. It is my hope that readers gain insights into their own journey as they experience mine.

I continue to struggle with the effects of stroke. Aging with stroke has proven more difficult than I anticipated. But I continue to get up each day, still standing and breathing, and for that I am grateful.

My next writing project is a memoir of growing up with eight brothers, no sisters, and an eccentric dad. There's not only drama, but loads of humor in my family dynamic.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Left Neglected: Lisa Genova

Left Neglected: Lisa Genova
In the follow up novel to her bestselling book, Still Alice, author Lisa Genova tells the story of a modern mother who confronts a traumatic brain injury. Dr. Genova holds a PhD. from Harvard University and brings her background in neuroscience into the lives of her characters. In the novel, Left Neglected, Sarah Nickerson is a type A business woman and harried mother to three young children: Charlie, Lucy, and Linus. She and her husband, Bob, are classic overachievers living a comfortable life in the suburbs of Boston and their second home in Vermont. Both parents work more than eighty hours per week and juggle their work and home life with aplomb. It is not usual for Sarah to check email while driving to work or occasionally miss one of her son’s soccer games.  As the novel begins, the parents are also struggling with their oldest son, Charlie, being diagnosed with ADHD. Ultimately, Sarah is involved in a horrific car accident while looking up a number on her cell phone in the morning rush hour. She is diagnosed with a condition called left neglect in which her brain is unaware of the left side of her body.  As the plot continues, Sarah must learn to live with her disability and reevaluates her priorities in life. She is assisted by her estranged mother, with whom she has had a painful past.  However, Sarah evolves and carries readers along on her mental and physical metamorphosis. We learn with her that “having it all” can sometimes have catastrophic consequences.
As a current working mother who stayed home with my children for many years, I can relate to both sides of the character, Sarah.  I believe the book is somewhat telling regarding the constant struggle many parents confront in trying to be present at all times, everywhere.  Left Neglected shows readers that it is imperative to focus on what is most important and multi-tasking is not always a positive word.
In closing, Lisa Genova is a brilliant writer. She brings her unique perspective in neurology into her fiction but her characters also feel very real.  Readers will leave her books with more knowledge into a fascinating field of science and with practical messages about being a woman in modern society. On Sept. 25, 2012, Dr. Genova will release her third novel, Love Anthony, about a mother and her love for a son with autism.  I will be first in line to read this book and in my humble opinion; Genova has stumbled upon a new and intriguing genre of fiction.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn (2012)

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn (2012)

 Gone Girl is the third critically acclaimed fiction novel by Gillian Flynn. Published in June 2012, the novel was voted an Best Book of June 2012 and won prized reviews on Amazon and other social media sites.  The book is an exceptional mystery that interprets the intricacies and complexities of modern day marriage with plot twists in the vein of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller.

In summary, Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in Nick’s rural Missouri hometown. Beautiful, blond, Amy Elliot Dunne is a native New Yorker and the couple has moved back to Missouri to care for Nick’s ailing parents. The novel moves through the unique perspectives of both Nick and Amy. The story begins with Nick’s point of view on the day of their fifth anniversary when he discovers that Amy has disappeared. Nick is described as a ruggedly handsome writer who woman love (imagine Brad Pitt).  Details emerge and Nick becomes a suspect in Amy’s disappearance and comes under the scrutiny of police and his wife’s doting parents.  Amy’s parents, New Yorkers, Marybeth and Rand Elliot are the world famous authors of a series based on their beloved daughter which is called Amazing Amy.  The Elliot’s are deeply in love after decades of marriage and collaborators on the Amazing Amy series. The couple seems more involved with their book series and their perfect love than the real Amy.  As the plot takes many different directions, Amy’s family background plays a key role in understanding her complex character. Nick is also influenced by his own family  which includes a cool twin sister, Margo or “Go” as well as his doting cancer stricken mother, Mo, and his despised Alzheimer’s ridden father. The novel has many twists  and I will not spoil the fun in this review.

As a reader, I was so excited to discover this book from the reviews I had read online.  I loved the dichotomy between the perspectives of Nick and Amy. About halfway through the book, I came to hate both characters and almost quit the book but continued to read and enjoyed the metamorphoses in both Nick and Amy. Flynn is a gifted writer; she employs a rich attention to detail and keen understanding of both the male and female points of view of marriage. I  also enjoyed the descriptions of the places the characters inhabited and the effects the localities had on their psyches.  Gone Girl was a definite treat that I enjoyed in a two day read. This book is one readers will love!

Finally, I was excited to see Gillian Flynn on The View discussing her book.  Apparently, actress, Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights to the book and will perhaps be portraying the character, Amy Elliot Dunne. Unfortunately, Ms. Witherspoon does not fit my image of Amy.  I hope many readers will enjoy this amazing novel before viewing the film, as books are sometimes a better way to enjoy a story.  Gone Girl is an exciting and engrossing work of fiction.  I am glad I read the book first as characters created through one’s imagination have the most lasting effect.  In closing, Gone Girl was one of the best books I have read in years and I was a bit sad to say goodbye to the dysfunctional but fascinating Nick and Amy Dunne. As Whoopi Goldberg implied on The View, “Let’s hope for a sequel.”


*I hope readers will leave some other thrillers they have devoured in the comment box for all of us to read! Also, who do you think would be the best actors to play Amy and Nick Dunne?