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One Hundred Names for Love: A Memoir

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,231 Ratings  ·  257 Reviews

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Finalist for the National Book Circle Critics Award

"A testament to the power of creativity in language, life—and love." —Heller McAlpin, Washington Post

No other writer can blend the science of the brain with the love of language like Diane Ackerman. In this extraordinary memoir, she opens a window into the experience of wordlessness—the langu
Kindle Edition, 337 pages
Published 2012 (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jenny Brown
Since my "day job" is being an expert in diabetes, the thing that got to me most about this book was the tragically poor medical advice the author followed, especially as she prides herself on doing medical research.

She lovingly feeds her husband a diet of sugar free, low fat, high carb foods which, unbeknownst to her, since she never tests her husband's blood sugar after meals, ensures the high blood sugars that worsen his neuropathy, heart disease and the likelihood of more strokes.

It's a sh
Rebecca Foster
(Saddened to hear of the subject’s recent death via this NYT obituary.) I was hugely impressed with Ackerman’s story of her husband Paul’s stroke and subsequent loss of speech (aphasia). To a pair of eloquent writers, the loss of shared language seemed especially cruel. The book chronicles Paul’s remarkable recovery, from having only one spoken syllable (a Garp-like Mem-mem-mem) to – within four years (long past what many doctors would have called the golden window of opportunity) – publishing s ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carol by: book group, NPR
One Hundred Names for Love ~ Diane Ackerman, at it's heart is a love story. Though this was a book group selection, I had the book on my list after reading a review. The premise of using fun, loving names to help stimulate memory of a stroke victim intrigued me. I had thought that Diane used the names in speaking to her husband, Paul West, but the reverse was true. Diane challenged her husband to come up with a new, loving name for her each day. He had often used these names of endearment prior ...more
Craig Dube
Oct 06, 2012 Craig Dube rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm a bit torn on my review of this book. On one hand, I found the author to be a very talented writer. Her choice of words and phrasing was unique and creative. At time abstract, I think she had some very descriptive ways of thinking of things.

I also found the subject matter very interesting. This book is really an account of dealing with her husband after he suffers a serious stroke that impairs him both physically and mentally (or more precisely verbally). Both the author and her husband are
Oct 24, 2012 Ilona rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction, health
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 09, 2011 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a stunning account of how Diane Ackerman and her husband, novelist Paul West, dealt with the devastating stroke that left him aphasic. For two people who had loved, lived, breathed, snacked, and feasted on words in their long marriage, aphasia was the worst possible condition that could befall a person. With love, patience, imagination, more patience, and sheer faith in the human brain's ability to continue to forge new connections way beyond what current medicine believes, they overcame ...more
Nannie Bittinger
Feb 16, 2011 Nannie Bittinger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nannie by: chatauqua reading circle
An amazing love story with so much knowledge and information as well. Very readable and often poetic and lyrical phrasing. Ackerman and her husband are wonderful wordsmiths. Highly recommend it for anyone. The first few chapters were really the hardest for me...Ackerman is able to convey her fear, confusion, and aloneness so well that it is painful to read. As the story continues however, it becomes such a journey of discovery in so many ways for everyone in the story as well as for the reader.
Bev Wall
After reading Ackerman's book, A Natural History of the Senses, I found that I didn't like this book so much. All that I loved in A Natural History (i.e. rich detail, flowing descriptions, a sort of movement within the pages), I found One Hundred Names way over the top. As a matter of fact, I didn't even finish it - it was too sweet, too flowery, too many words, words, words.
Lynne Spreen
I had mixed reactions to the book. On one hand, how can anyone but root for Diane and Paul, and suffer along with them as they struggled through the horror of these circumstances? I felt happy as clarity surfaced in Paul's damaged brain, and wanted to give Diane a hug during the early days when she went through her caregiver role as a zombie.

Yet there were some difficulties in the book. At times, Diane overused metaphors in a way that obscured rather than clarified her points. Here's an example
Sep 12, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had been in the middle of a crisis with a loved one suffering a stroke, I might have found this book very worthwhile, because if would have offered encouragement and talked about one couple's experience of a devastating stroke in the husband. It even offered information about methods of helping people recover from strokes that might have been helpful to me and/or the stroke victim's doctors.

As a piece of writing, I found this book a mess. I was bothered by the author's frequent use of meta
May 28, 2011 K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A celebration of language, artists and love! A detailed account of the loss, grief and then restructuring of two complexly intertwined lives.

Ackerman builds an ornate bridge between the humanities and the applied sciences when she describes the struggles that she and her husband faced in the wake of his stroke. Paul lost his ability to speak (aphasia), except for the single nonsense phrase "mem." Ackerman uses her gifts as naturalist and poet to describe in rich, lyrical detail the effects this
Jun 05, 2011 Charlene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Diane Ackerman writes beautifully -- I've read many of her books and enjoyed them, particularly A Natural History of the Senses and Cultivating Delight. But this book is special to me personally . . .my school teacher mother, at age 85, had a devastating left brain stroke that seems very similar to the one suffered by Ackerman's husband, novelist and former professor of literature, Paul West. How I wish this book had existed when I was attempting to help my mother with her loss of language. Paul ...more
Jun 29, 2013 Antonia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
Fascinating. I'll return to reread and copy out some of the beautiful passages. The story is beautifully told. That said, it was perhaps a little repetitive at times. And a bit too heavy on the adjectives, though not as excessive as some of her Ackerman's writing.

As one reviewer (at Amazon) put it, "Ackerman at times seemed to be trapped in a thesaurus. Thus, such off-putting sentences as, 'Yet somehow his brain slowly spelunked for his literary self, and found the rappel of sentences, the trav
Feb 20, 2011 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The following review is from the fabulous 90-year old Elinor:

" Thanks you again for loaning your advance copy
of Diane Ackerman's book. As you know, I had a Stroke with Aphasia on May 1, 2010 so I was interested in comparing the author's husband' Pau''s recovery with my own.
I also was interested with all the details she
researched and included. This book is a valuable
guide for caregivers to care for patients of all chronic
diseases, not just stroke. The book's title is "One
Hundred Name For Love."
Karen Charbonneau
This is the story of a successful May-September marriage in its later, very difficult, years, after Paul West, novelist, and the husband of author, Diane Ackerman, has a stroke in his mid-70s, losing his ability to speak, understand words, read, identify objects - and yet is still a thinking person. And at his advanced age, under the care of his wife, he slowly recovers some of these abilities, enough so that he can again write and communicate verbally. You must accept this couple for what they ...more
Apr 19, 2011 Susan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
When a neurologist looked at a brain scan of Diane Ackerman's husband, years after he suffered a stroke, the doctor opined that he must be in a vegetative state. But this is the story of how Paul West, a novelist and writer, was able to recover much of his ability to write and speak, so that he continues to write and publish, and how his improvement continues 5 years afterward although he continues to have some aphasia and other problems resulting from the stroke. It is also the story of how his ...more
Shirley Brosius
May 28, 2011 Shirley Brosius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you enjoy words and language, this is the book for you. Written by the wife of a man, an intellectual professor and novelist, who suffered a stroke, it tells the tale of his voyage to the depth of confusion—and a good bit of the way back. But it’s far more than a chronicle of the loss of health. The author shows the playful relationship, built on pet names and word plays, that the two enjoyed, and how, to their delight, they regained much of it. “A bell with a crack in it may not ring as clea ...more
Oct 19, 2011 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-essay
One of the best books I read in summer 2011. Recommend to those who are interested in neurology as well as to those who love writing and words. Part memoir of Ackerman's writerly, intellectual, beautifully quirky marriage, part an account of her husband's stroke and recovery. Inspiring in her commitment to working with whatever language he could manage -- and her recognition that typical rehab exercises and verbal tests might not be so appropriate to poets or novelists used to enjoying surrealis ...more
Joy Gerbode
Oct 31, 2013 Joy Gerbode rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this is a book I would NOT have picked up on my own, I am extremely glad it was a book chosen for our book club. I first considered skipping it, being a memoir, and I'm not particularly fond of them. Then I noticed the author was the woman who wrote "The Zookeeper's Wife" which I had thoroughly enjoyed. So I began reading.

This is about her husband's stroke, and all they went through in his therapy afterward. There were so many things that reminded me of my mother, and I found myself in
May 11, 2012 Keegan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
About a writer couple and about the husband (a former professor) having a stroke and his improvement post-stroke. Not a fast read, but beautifully written. I got bogged down in the beginning more with the dire state of his health and the heaviness of the writing (which right now is not usual reading for me), but later as Paul made improvements I just really loved it. I loved the quirkiness of their relationships and the fun turns of phrase. I loved how much they loved each other and how that did ...more
Sally Smith
I feel a little bad giving such a loving book only 3 stars, but it got old after a while. The author's husband suffered a devastating stroke and the book is the story of his rehabilitation and their new life post-stroke. Both author Diane and husband Paul are remarkable individuals, but there was too much of the same thing over and over. I ended up just skimming the last third of the book. Still, I'm glad I read it.
Sep 24, 2012 Cecily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always liked books by Diane Ackerman. This one was wonderful. I love her use of language. This book is about her life with her husband, Paul West, after his stroke. He is an author as well and their life was one filled with words. His stroke leaves him aphasic. Seems like a downer, but it is not!!! I highly recommend!
I found this tale of recovery from stroke compellingly written, very informative, and a wonderful tale of love and care of a wife for her stricken husband. Read it while on vacation this week and truly was glad I did.
Nov 28, 2016 Sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca Foster's review eloquently says it all.

I loved Ackerman's "The Zookeeper's Wife".

"One Hundred Names For Love" is definitely worth the read.

Aug 25, 2011 Holly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
Ackerman fascinatingly depicts how her own brain is working in the aftermath of her husband's stroke: I'd already noticed how my own voice had changed: losing some of its sharp peaks and bounce, and gaining firm new ridges. My phrases were smaller, slower; my rhythms thick and clumsy, not light and dancing. I now seemed to quarry words, one by one, presenting them like bright bits of jasper -- not slurred in a wash of flurried adjectives -- when I spoke to Paul.[p89-90] This masquerade [of being ...more
I read this as research for a short story I'm writing. Reading about the struggles and progress of Paul West as he fought back post-stroke was inspiring. And reading about the burden it placed on his wife was eye-opening. It was reassuring to see how their relationship changed but remained strong.
Oct 30, 2012 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and I generally love anything written by Diane Ackerman.

When Ackerman's husband, writer Paul West, suffers a stroke in 2003 he is left with global aphasia. He is unable to speak or to comprehend words spoken to him and, in the early days, was able to repeat only one syllable, "mem, mem, mem." Words, writing and reading were at the core of their lives and their marriage. It was how they made their living and more importantly, word play was a large part of the expression of their
Dec 17, 2011 DeeRae rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had mixed feelings on this book.

As a speech-language pathologist/medical professional working in the skilled nursing facility setting, I found parts of the book fascinating. Many descriptions seemed spot on and were told in layman's terms to help spread awareness of stroke, the associated deficits, as well as a myriad of other medical conditions. I actually have recommended some families check it out as a part of the education/grief process.

While Ackerman does a great job in some areas, I fo
Diane Ackerman is at her best in this painful and wondrous tale of her husband's stroke, aphasia, and the cascading life changes that ensue. Her love, her determination, patience and their mutual love of words and word play, along with some luck see them both through to an incredible outcome of massive recovery, in spite of major damage to a number of key areas of his brain. An enlightening must for anyone who has been/is a caregiver for a frail elder or someone with cognitive impairment.
Diane Yannick
Sep 19, 2012 Diane Yannick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lucky for us, the author was already a poet, essayist, novelist and naturalist before her husband suffered a debilitating stroke. Thus she could capture the nuances of rebuilding a life for both of them. Paul West, her husband, was also a writer and researcher. Never had I encountered a relationship so word centered---humorous, intellectual word play, esoteric research, creative juxtaposition of poetic elements, a myriad of personal endearments. When his language was severely compromised, he fou ...more
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Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper’s Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives with her husband Paul West in Ithaca, New York.
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“And yet, words are the passkeys to our souls. Without them, we can't really share the enormity of our lives.” 15 likes
“So much in a relationship changes when a partner is seriously ill, helpless yet blameless, and indefatigably needy. I felt old. [p. 99]

The animal part of him in pain accepted my caring. But the part of himself watching himself in that pain didn't believe I could ever respect him again. None of this crossed my mind. I couldn't risk knowing it. No one could and continue caregiving. They'd feel so unappreciated and wronged that it would drive them away. [p. 100]”
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