Monday, July 6, 2009

The Body Broken

Summary: In the tradition of William Styron’s tour de force Darkness Visible, The Body Broken is a gorgeously told and intensely moving account of one woman’s extraordinary odyssey into a life of chronic pain–and of the unyielding resilience of the human spirit.

At age nineteen, Lynne Greenberg narrowly survived a devastating car crash. When her broken neck healed–or so everyone thought–her recovery was hailed as a medical miracle and she returned to normal life. Years later, she seemed to have it all: a loving husband, two wonderful children, a peaceful home, and a richly satisfying job as a tenured poetry professor. Then, one morning, this blissful façade shattered–the pain in her neck returned in the most vicious way. A life with physical agony ensued.

Greenberg realized that she had been living for years on borrowed time. As she and her family navigated an increasingly complicated web of doctors and specialists, Greenberg taught herself to fight her own battles–against a medical system ill-equipped to handle patients with chronic pain, and against the emotional pitfalls of a newly restricted life. Drawing on her family’s support, her own indomitable spirit, and an intense connection to the poetry she taught, Greenberg found the strength to return to a productive and satisfying–if irrevocably changed–life. This deeply personal saga takes us to the heart of a family’s struggle to survive a crisis, and shows us how, at the most profound levels, such an odyssey affects a patient’s marriage, the ability to parent, family, work, and friendships.

The Body Broken is a powerful, lyrical story of one woman’s remarkable determination and breathtaking courage, as she puts mind over matter in the struggle to reclaim her life.

Review: Twenty two years after Lynne Greenberg thought she had walked away unscathed from the neck fracture she sustained at age nineteen, her ordeal came roaring back when she learned that her neck was still broken. According to Greenberg, "in the breath of a moment, I could see that my life had fractured in two as clearly as had my fractured neck."

The Body Broken details Greenberg's coming to terms with a serious debilitating condition. She doesn't pull punches as to the depths of her pain. During the summer of 2006, while in London researching for a literary criticism book, Greenberg suddenly experienced an intense headache that "has never gone away since." Greenberg's memoir explores her descent into the abyss of chronic pain, drug dependence, and despair.

Along with her story Greenberg, an English professor, weaves in pertinent poetry quotes such as this one from Mark Strand's Precious Little

". . . and nothing turns out

As you thought, then what is the difference

Between blindness lost and blindness regained."

The ending is not a "feel good one" at least in the sense of being healed. Rather it is the triumph of learning to live a full life in the face of a constant challenge (chronic pain). As Greenberg poignantly explains "in November 2007, one year and five months after my life changed, I got out of bed. Such a simple act in so many ways, so ordinary, it required just a little shift of my thinking the morning it happened. I think I'll take Lil to school today and have coffee at Starbucks with my friends, I thought. In other ways, it was a momentous shift."

The Body Broken is a compelling read, especially for anyone who has ever experienced a serious illness or been a caretaker to someone with a chronic illness.

1 comment:

  1. Loved your review-this sounds like an interesting book - I'll be looking for this one in the 'stacks': D