I would never have guessed that a memoir about going blind from a degenerative retinal disease could be so full of humor. At the age of 19, Nicole Kea...moreI would never have guessed that a memoir about going blind from a degenerative retinal disease could be so full of humor. At the age of 19, Nicole Kear found out she had retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease where she would first lose her peripheral vision, and eventually be blind in 10-15 years. With a "seize the day" attitude, she decided to travel, have a series of one-night stands, finish a degree in drama at Yale, and search for acting jobs in California and New York. She only told her family and a few close friends about her diagnosis. She pretended to be ditzy or drunk when she walked into glass doors or tripped over things she did not see. It was especially challenging to see at night, and she had some hilarious stories about attending parties to network in California which were often held around the host's swimming pool, a dangerous spot for Kear. I would not have wanted to be on the road when she was driving.
Eventually she fell in love and had children. Keeping track of toddlers is challenging enough for people with good sight. She had a terrible scare when she couldn't find her daughter, but the little girl was just sitting on a nearby bench, out of Kear's range of vision. She realized she could no longer be in a state of denial, and needed to ask for help from her family, her friends, and a state training program. Her children would be safer if people knew her secret.
I enjoyed the author's exuberance, and her irreverent, self-deprecating sense of humor. Kear also included times of fear, as well as tender moments, in her book. This was a well-written memoir that kept my interest.(less)
This remarkable memoir chronicles the life of Josh Hanagarne, a Mormon librarian in Salt Lake City and a weightlifter, who battles Tourette Syndrome....moreThis remarkable memoir chronicles the life of Josh Hanagarne, a Mormon librarian in Salt Lake City and a weightlifter, who battles Tourette Syndrome. Hanagarne has a severe form of Tourette's with tics that include blinking, jerking, involuntary shouting, and hitting himself, which made him a target for bullies. He created an identity for this affliction called Misty (for Miss Tourett's) that almost became another character in the book. When medications did not alleviate his symptoms, he tried weightlifting which helped for a while.
Hanagarne tells about his experiences with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, his loving family, his supportive wife, and his joy in becoming a father. He has always loved books, and writes of the importance of libraries in our communities. The book is filled with humorous incidents about his life and about the patrons at the library where he works. He realizes how ironic it is for a large man who can't sit still and can't keep quiet to have a vocation as a librarian.
The memoir is both humorous and heartbreaking, but always engaging. It has taken an enormous amount of courage for Hanagarne to deal with such a painful, exhausting case of Tourette's and be a productive part of society.
Conor's mother has terminal cancer, his father is overseas with his new family, and he doesn't relate well with his grandmother. Conor is having night...moreConor's mother has terminal cancer, his father is overseas with his new family, and he doesn't relate well with his grandmother. Conor is having nightmares, and a monster shows up to tell the thirteen-year-old boy three stories, and then expects Conor to tell him a fourth story....the truth.
Siobhan Dowd, the author of young adult books, had the ideas for this story but died of cancer before she could write the book. Patrick Ness expanded on her ideas, and A Monster Calls is the result. This well-written book has a powerful emotional impact. The wonderful black and white illustrations by Jim Kay perfectly complement the mood of the book. This heartbreaking story deals with love, hope, helplessness, grief, and letting go.(less)
Elle is in the ICU, brain-dead after a terrible fall, and her neurosurgeon husband Matt must make a decision about removing her from life support. The...moreElle is in the ICU, brain-dead after a terrible fall, and her neurosurgeon husband Matt must make a decision about removing her from life support. Then the medical staff gets the lab report that Elle is pregnant. The couple had been through the disappointment of many miscarriages, and Matt feels that Elle would want to be kept alive for the baby's sake. But Matt's mother has an old advanced directive from Elle stating that she would not want to be on life support, since Elle saw her own mother's life being prolonged into a long and painful death. As Matt fights a legal battle in the hope of saving the baby while also dealing with the overwhelming grief of Elle's situation, the story of their love is told in flashbacks.
This is a story with many moral and legal issues, and lots of gray areas. It shows family and friends divided on the right course to take. There is also the medical question of whether the baby will be born healthy. The book explores the issue of right to death in a state (Maine) that does not have a law on the books regarding the situation of a pregant mother. At the same time, we learn the history of Matt and Elle, best friends and lovers, who had grown up as next door neighbors and had recently been struggling to have a child.
I found the medical and legal issues very interesting, and the love story heartbreaking. There were a few unlikely situations--Matt's mother is an OB nurse, Matt is a neurosurgeon, Matt's college buddy is a lawyer--that seemed to fit the story too perfectly. It might be emotionally difficult for someone who has faced fertility issues to read this story. People who enjoy love stories, and books with medical and legal issues (such as Jodi Picoult fans) would probably like this book.(less)
Gal Garner is a crusty biology teacher who is coping with kidney disease. She is spending much of her time at the hospital hooked up to a dialysis mac...moreGal Garner is a crusty biology teacher who is coping with kidney disease. She is spending much of her time at the hospital hooked up to a dialysis machine while she waits for a transplant. The joy in her life, and the distraction from her problems, comes from breeding roses.
Then her teenage niece, Riley, shows up at Gal's workplace. Riley's irresponsible mother had to fly to Hong Kong to work for several months, and sent her off to Gal's without any notice. Riley gets more structure in her life, and Gal softens her prickly edges as she bonds with Riley.
The story is told with Gal narrating it. She has a sense of humor, and is deeply caring, under her curmudgeon exterior. I enjoyed the family story, the other characters, and the fascinating glimpse into the world of growing prize roses. This would be a good book group selection.(less)
The author is a geriatrician who spends part of his working day at Steere Home in Rhode Island where many of the residents have Alzheimer's Disease. T...moreThe author is a geriatrician who spends part of his working day at Steere Home in Rhode Island where many of the residents have Alzheimer's Disease. There are cats also living at the home since animals are able to offer companionship to the residents. The staff was noticing that Oscar, a cute black and white cat, was keeping vigil in the rooms of patients on the day they died. He offered comfort to the resident and family through his presence. It was thought that Oscar might recognize the sweet smell of ketones (due to cellular breakdown), and that prompted him to watch over the patient.
Dr Dosa interviewed the families that Oscar had befriended. The book is about lots more than just Oscar. Dr Dosa lets the reader see the progression of Alzheimer's Disease, and how it affects the patient, their family, and their professional caregivers. Some of the stories are heartwarming; others are amusing, informative, or sad. Throughout them all, Oscar seemed to know when people needed him to calm and comfort them.(less)
The neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a compassionate book about hallucinations, full of individual patients' stories as well as his own experience...moreThe neurologist Oliver Sacks has written a compassionate book about hallucinations, full of individual patients' stories as well as his own experiences. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation were especially interesting. Blindness, hearing problems, solitary confinement, sailors staring at an endless calm sea, and sensory deprivation tanks can all lead to hallucinations because "the brain needs not only perceptual input but perceptual change." In addition to visual hallucinations, people can also have auditory, olfactory, and tactile sensations. Illness, fevers, migraines, epilepsy, dementia, delirium, sleep deprivation, alcohol, drugs, and grief are some of the other causes of hallucinations.
Dr Sacks' own experiences with psychedelics and other drugs in the 1960s are very colorfully described. He also shares his experiences with migraines which he first developed as a child. He interviewed people who had hallucinations that took on a mystical aspect or a religious experience. He also gives theories about the possible causes of the near death experience. Ways that neurologists are helping patients with amputated limbs deal with the "phantom limb" sensation were also discussed.
Dr Sacks' love of literature is evident since he quotes neurology papers that are centuries old, and references famous authors who have experience hallucinations. After reading this book, the reader could read with fresh eyes works by Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, Lewis Carroll, Dostoyevsky, and Nabokov. Even "The Bible", "The Illiad", and "The Odyssey" have examples of hallucinations--visions and voices. Many traditional fairytales and folktales also have elements of hallucinations--elves, leprechauns, and various demons.
I thought it would have been useful if the author had included a short glossary of neurological terms since some readers might not have an extensive medical vocabulary. Overall, I found Hallucinations to be a fascinating book. (less)
A diphtheria epidemic was starting in Nome, Alaska in 1925 and antitoxin was desperately needed. Nome, located close to the Arctic Circle, was no long...moreA diphtheria epidemic was starting in Nome, Alaska in 1925 and antitoxin was desperately needed. Nome, located close to the Arctic Circle, was no longer accessible by boat since the Bering Sea was already frozen. Some serum was transported from Anchorage to Nenana by train. Then a relay of twenty dog sled teams ran day and night for 674 miles to bring the lifesaving serum to Nome. The heroic men and their dogs traveled through blizzards and exceptionally frigid conditions--down to minus 60 degrees.
The authors provided lots of interesting background material about diphtheria, Nome, the Gold Rush, and the Native Alaskans. They also discussed the dog sled teams, especially the lead dogs, and the responsibilities of the drivers. The second half of the book was especially exciting as the teams made the harrowing journey. Exceptionally intelligent lead dogs, such as Togo from Leonhard Seppala's team, pulled them out of potentially deadly situations. The two authors, cousins Gal Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, wrote a book that is both informative and full of human (and canine) drama.(less)
When the author moved to Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, she was informed that their new home was a birth house years ago. This was her inspiration for this b...moreWhen the author moved to Scots Bay, Nova Scotia, she was informed that their new home was a birth house years ago. This was her inspiration for this book about Dora Rare, a young woman who was trained to be a midwife and a healer by Miss Babineau. Using herbs and folk medicine, Miss B had been taking care of the families in this remote village for decades.
When Dr Thomas opens the Canning Maternity Home in a nearby town, he brings in totally different ideas about childbirth. He uses ether and foreceps during the births. The villagers had to choose between the old traditions and the new methods. Childbirth had many risks at that point in history, and many mothers and babies did not survive.
The story is historical fiction set during World War I, and many of the men signed up to fight in the war. Dora helps nurse the victims of the Halifax Explosion, and the Spanish flu of 1918. She also met some women active in the women's suffrage movement in Boston.
Letters, newspaper clippings, and signs are included in the story. Miss B's list of medicinal herbs is in the back of the book.
The beginning of the book moved slowly and included a lot of small town bickering. But the pace picked up, and the book became more engaging. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy historical fiction about the roles of women.(less)