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One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing
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One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,181 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
"This book has done what no other has for me in recent years: it has renewed my faith in the redemptive power of love, the need to give and get it unstintingly, to hold nothing back, settle for nothing less, because when flesh and being and even life falls away, love endures. This book is proof." —Abraham Verghese, New York Times

"Diane Ackerman's most enjoyable, intimate,
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 4th 2011 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2011)
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Jenny Brown
Apr 22, 2012 Jenny Brown rated it liked it
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
Nov 30, 2015 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
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
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
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
Sep 24, 2011 Nannie Bittinger rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 27, 2014 Bev Wall rated it liked it
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
Mar 28, 2014 Lynne Spreen rated it liked it
Shelves: midlife, health
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
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
Jun 29, 2013 Antonia rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 29, 2011 Robin rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 16, 2013 Karen Charbonneau rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2011 Susan rated it liked it
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 30, 2011 Shirley Brosius rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 03, 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
Jun 12, 2012 Keegan rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing
Yay! Loved this book. So much wordplay and brains. Exploring language and the way brains do things. It was also very beautiful and positive. Ackerman is living a five year recovery period, with her husband, Paul West, after he has a stroke and has to rebuild language. She's trying to balance being a caretaker, writing, creativity and love. I'm wondering if there are shadows untold to this story, but according to the book, she does awesome! Some things that I liked: Paul swimming, the main co-car ...more
Sally Smith
Jun 17, 2011 Sally Smith rated it liked it
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
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.
Dec 08, 2014 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this memoir as much had the writer and her husband who suffered the stroke not been writers and, more accurately, wordsmiths. Ackerman writes beautifully even amidst the horrors of West's stroke and five-year recovery. The book would challenge anyone to ask whether he/she could assist in a spouse's recovery so intimately, so selflessly. But it is precisely Ackerman's determination to use words to get her husband speaking again, and as he begins to do so, he retu ...more
Karen Chung
Dec 15, 2014 Karen Chung rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book, naturalist and author Diane Ackerman shares an intimate, highly articulate account of her unbidden experience as caregiver for her writer spouse, Paul West, who ends up with global aphasia due to a stroke in the left side of his brain. It provides an interesting comparison to Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. Paul had a much more devastating stroke than Taylor, yet through sheer determination and the strong support of Ackerman and other ...more
May 08, 2015 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It rates a 3, but more of a 2.5 for me. And that is simply due to the fact I never really connected with the story. Maybe as I went through it and there was this declaration of this idyllic, word-play relationship but then hints of something rather more than tempestuous, bothered me a bit. Granted a word-play-based relationship would annoy the crap out of me, but to everyone his own. Regardless, I ended up feeling that the back story was a bit disingenous. I would have appreciated more scien
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Putnam
Jan 18, 2014 Mary Putnam rated it it was amazing
He's a novelist, she writes mainly non-fiction, he's older and had children while she had only his... he has a HUGE vocabulary... this was very close to home for me. I want to read it again as an e-book so I can easily look up all the beautiful new-to-me words they used (a big part of the story, could even say that "language is a character" like you sometimes here folks say "setting is a character"). She writes about their lives as writers and how their love overcame the major challenge of a bra ...more
Sheri faulk
Jun 18, 2016 Sheri faulk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It really is a great book - you have to be patient through the long drawn out parts - but worth the read. Very educational on stroke victims and how some peoples aphasia works. A must read for people OVER 45 or 50 or with anyone at risk for stroke or has a family member with aphasia.

Author and naturalist Ackerman reflects on the time she spent caring for her husband, novelist Paul West, after a stroke took his ability to speak. With conventional therapy not working, Ackerman decided to step in a
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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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