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Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  4,323 ratings  ·  394 reviews
The searing, wry memoir about a woman’s fight for a new life after a devastating brain injury.

When Sarah Vallance is thrown from a horse and suffers a jarring blow to the head, she believes she’s walked away unscathed. The next morning, things take a sharp turn as she’s led from work to the emergency room. By the end of the week, a neurologist delivers a devastating
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published August 1st 2019 by Little A
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Ina Roy-Faderman
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you like Oliver Sack's article about face-blindness (New Yorker) or his books (particularly Uncle Tungsten and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), you will love this book.

Before I get into why this is an amazing book: I've seen a few reviews by people who gave an unthinking criticism of the book because they believe that the author hates animals or is cruel to them. Those people really didn't get the book and/or didn't read the book through. This is the story of a woman who loves
Sarah had a good life. She was well on her way to getting her doctorate degree. She was very intelligent and scholastic things came easy to her (with the exception of math). She was very close to her father, a geologist, and exactly the opposite with her mother, who was decidedly cold and even mean at times. Sarah was also a daredevil.

At age 31, she climbs up onto a horse she later admits she had no business being on, and she has no idea how to control him. She is thrown very high and actually
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not your typical white woman memoir of healing and redemption. Vallance's rendering of her life is told with brutal honesty and minimalist mush which just happen to include moments of humour and tenderness when confronted with the various faces of death. I laughed when I wanted to cry and vice versa.
Cindy H.
Jul 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was a free Amazon Prime First Read selection for July. I feel a little apathetic giving 2 stars to someone who penned a memoir about recovering and living with a traumatic brain injury. But I’m keeping it real. While I can admire Sarah Vallance for sharing and relating her calamitous accident it did not make for an engaging story. The entire retelling felt devoid of any emotion. It was a rather dull read, and I found myself skimming pages.
Jul 24, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, memoirs, sucktastic
I read this because of Kindle First Reads and, if it hadn't been free, I'd want my money back.

Vallance comes off as a heartless ass, using others so she can get whatever she wants and emotionally abusing her partners. Actually, everyone but Louise in this book seems to be kind of terrible. What can I say, I have high standards for humans I interact with.

(view spoiler)
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a work of phenomenal power. Vallance's story is one of courage and tenacity, revealing the need for a better understanding of Traumatic Brain Injury and its terrifying consequences. With wit and intelligence, Vallance chronicles her journey through experiences that would cause a lesser individual to give up. This memoir will make you appreciate the power of language and Vallance's ability to wield it affectively. Brimming with a viscerality that will make you both laugh and cry, ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was rather depressing. As a person who has also suffered from a severe head injury, it was apparent to me that Sarah could have done more to help herself. Rather than dwelling on the bad things going on in her head, I wanted to shake her and tell her to get over it! Exercise, a good diet and no alcohol among other things, would have helped her immensely. I tired of her whining rather quickly.
Diane Yannick
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Having suffered a TBI personally, I was more intrigued with this book than the average reader might be. There was a lot that resonated with me but especially the reaction of others. Like Sarah, many others tried to talk me out of my struggle. Among other things, I lost the ability to determine before/after; greater/lesser. I wrote everything in a journal then rehearsed it until it was relearned. This was my secret. Because we look fine, no one can see the inner turmoil. They get frustrated which ...more
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I do not like many memoirs, but this book reeled me in from the first page. I read it in two days. Wonderful insight into what it’s like to have a brain injury, and how to pick yourself up and keep going when all the odds are against you. It’s also funny!
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Vallance’s Prognosis is a ‘must read’. It is in turn witty, brutally honest, heartbreaking and uplifting. Rocking along at a good pace it keeps the reader riveted. I absolutely loved reading this book. An amazing achievement by a talented new writer. I highly recommended it.
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
One of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s hard to feel bad for someone that makes so many rotten choices and doesn’t want to get help, but Sarah managed to weave a really honest narrative of her life that holds your attention. She doesn’t ask for pity and really puts all her cards on the table in this book. I’m still not sure why she wrote this- for herself? For us? For TBI awareness? and at times I felt like I was listening to an old queen at the bar rambling about her glory days.

Lisa Van Gemert
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I wanted to like this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I didn't. I wanted to understand TBI better, which is why I picked it up, but I just couldn't get past the shocking selfishness of the author.

She was so incredibly hypocritical in so many ways ("I love dogs so much, so, let me have my dog put to sleep because I leave her alone for almost ten hours a day and my girlfriend is sick of her creating a disaster").

She also kept saying that people think that people with TBI are
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is not a memoir written in perfect self-awareness. Sarah idolizes her abusive father who built a massive library of rare books while his wife, Sarah's mom, was not even allowed to have enough money to buy a movie ticket. (Sarah's mom was no peach either, of course.) And then there's the dog. I can forgive a brain-injured memoirist a lot of things. Bad editing is not one of them. Where is the person who is supposed have said: "Honey, you turn into a totally unsympathetic character when you ...more
Catherine Dart
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It is not often you get to read the pages of someone’s life with such openness, honesty, kindness and determination. This is a book I could not put down and was inspired beyond all else by the bravery, courage, intelligence and beauty of Sarah’s story. It brings awareness to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) as well gently unfolds the fear, loneliness, grit and hope of this wonderful woman. Her story is a “must read” and one that teaches us to not judge, but rather seek to understand everyone’s ...more
Aye See
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational. Brutally honest. In turns funny and heartbreaking. With wry humor, this book had me riveted from the first page. The resilience of human spirit that refuses to be daunted by adversity. It’s a story that needs to be shared. I highly recommend this book.
David H
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Vallances deeply personal memoir is both beautiful and utterly absorbing. With intellect humour and compassion, she weaves together the multiple and complex strands, of her own very personal journey back from profound brain injury. Told with an unflinching and often confronting honesty, A memoir of my brain is moving, reflective and ultimately a hugely rewarding read.
Tara Wasinger
Jul 05, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book started out strong, and I was even recommending it to my friends, but then about halfway through it went downhill fast. I bought this book to learn more about traumatic brain injury, not lesbianism and sacrificing the things you love for your hot girlfriend. If the author had been hiding it her entire life and then all the sudden came out BECAUSE of the brain injury, then it would have had more of a place in the story, but she had already come out so I felt a lot of that stuff could ...more
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
an Incredibly emotionally ravaging and inspiring account of life after a brain injury ...this books draws you in from the first page and keeps the pace going as you join in an incredible journey of pain, loss, discovery and hope. A must read for anyone who loves memoirs.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vallance's poignant memoir sells her woefully short. Her achievements in the face of brain injury and abject rejection by her family are truly remarkable. To me, this is not only Vallance's story about coping with and to some degree conquering TBI, but it also shows a) how far we've come since the 90s in understanding brain injuries, and b) that other health care systems aren't always the panaceas that Americans want them to be. Vallance is practically left on an island by an unfeeling ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Upon completing her memoir, I feel so so proud of Sarah Vallance. She detailed the 20 odd years following a major traumatic brain injury (which was wrongly labeled as mild early on) she received after falling off a horse and focuses on how she both did and did not recover. Immediately after her diagnosis a social worker informed her she would not return to her government job and could not expect to work again.

This was a huge blow to an otherwise healthy 30-something, but she soon understands
Leah K
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio
As usual, I always feel awkward rating someone's memoir or autobiography. Someone has put their life, their soul, the good and the bad out there for the world to read and if that's not bravery, what is? So kudos to Ms. Vallance for telling her story because I'm sure it wasn't an easy one.

I had some trouble getting into this book. It lacks emotion, which given the topic, makes sense. But that made it hard for me to connect with anyone. Not only did I not connect but I found a rather big dislike
lesley hernandez
This was awesome and my first memoir Sarah had a very sad story it hurt me especially with her mom and the strained relationship they had. Her first two loves would eventually leave her based on circumstances and life moving forward. This brain injury really had an impact in everything she did but I loved hearing about her adventures I believe you will enjoy it
Suz McDowell
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
MM Suarez
This is not the most exciting memoir I've read this year and the author does not come across as particularly sympathetic; however, I admire her perseverance and I did learn some interesting facts about traumatic brain injury so it was worth it for me.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prognosis was an interesting book. The brain’s capacity to adjust and learn is nothing short of amazing. I was stunned by the fact that her brain injury didn’t present more symptoms on impact. I admire her persistence in relearning all that she had to relearn. Parts of it were very repetitive and I would have liked to see her take more action to address the emotional side effects of the brain injury.
This is a story about a woman who suffered severe traumatic brain injury after an accident and all the hardships that accompany someone with that designation. Her tale is one of courage and resilience that could inspire many.

Unfortunately, she also comes across as a narcissist and generally unlikable person. Perhaps the lack of self-awareness is partially a result of the injury, but it seems to be her basic personality. Sometimes it was hard to feel sympathetic due to the self-induced aspects of
(Read the original on my blog:

I received this as a Kindle First Reads book for July 2019.

Once again, when I got my selections for July Kindle First Reads, there was nothing that interested me (more of the same boring themes) until I got to the end of the list and saw this book. I read the description and decided to grab it because, though I've read several biographies and memoirs, the story behind this one was different from anything I've read before.

The first 30% of

When it is hot as heck outside and there is nothing "cool" to do but reading sitting in front of the a/c as everything else makes you end up a sweaty mess, it is the perfect day for a speed reader. (Yes it is hot and humid in Canada!)

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do .

The searing, wry
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very moving and heartwarming story, wholly engaging. Having undergone a craniotomy myself to have an aneurysm clipped, I could relate to Sarah’s description of the lack of information provided following brain injury/surgery about ‘what to expect’ and that feeling of being left alone to fend for yourself. In Sarah’s case this was much more shocking that she was told she would never work again and was then effectively abandoned. Had she truly believed that, her life could have been so ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This is sort of a tough book to review. On the one hand, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding now of what the author went through and how she sees herself. On the other hand, it seems like she implies but never says outright that she threatened some of her previous romantic partners. Given how the book explores the themes of familial abuse and TBI-aggravated outbursts I’m surprised she never addresses explicitly what it was her partners were reacting to.

The writing style was engaging,
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Sarah Vallance was born in Sydney. She graduated from City University of Hong Kong in 2013 with an MFA in creative writing. Her essays have earned her a Pushcart Prize. She has been published in the Gettysburg Review, the Sun, the Pinch, Asia Literary Review, and Post Road, among other places. Sarah was a Harkness Fellow at Harvard and holds a doctorate in government and public administration. She ...more
“No one had told me that sleep disturbances affect most head-injured folk, sometimes permanently, or that a lack of sleep would significantly hamper rehabilitation. I would never have another normal” 2 likes
“My greatest fear was appearing stupid; a fear I will carry with me for the rest of my life—a tattoo across my forehead only I can see. All I wanted was to be invisible.” 2 likes
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