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A Match to the Heart: One Woman's Story of Being Struck By Lightning

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  426 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
A powerful chronicle of a wounded woman’s exploration of nature and self

After nature writer Gretel Ehrlich was struck by lightning near her Wyoming ranch and almost died, she embarked on a painstaking and visionary journey back to the land of the living. With the help of an extraordinary cardiologist and the companionship of her beloved dog Sam, she avidly explores the nat
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1994)
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Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While I was recovering from my knee surgery and doing PT at the Mapleton Pool. I met a professor from CU who told me that this was the best book he had ever written. Indeed, she is a beautiful writer and shares her process of recovery after being struck by lightening. Using images of nature she weaves a sometimes intense but beautiful account of her journey back to health.
I found it very inspiring for my own recovery process.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read The Solace of Open Spaces for class in high school and was immediately taken with Gretel Ehrlich's style of writing. Her story of recovery and struggle is beautifully written. Her journey into herself written through the landscapes of the California coast, Wyoming plains and glaciers in Alaska is mesmerizing. Whatever Ehrlich writes about whether it's the inner workings of the heart muscle or the many creatures that occupy tide pools; it's always well researched obvious from the depth and ...more
Susan Raines
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this as part of my "what does it feel like to be struck by lightning?" research. While the author's descriptions of the strike and its aftermath are fascinating, much of the book just didn't grab me, and I found myself skimming over those paragraphs.
Dhyana Winant
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
depressing throughout
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's part Barbara Kingsolver, part Terry Tempest Williams, part Dianne Ackerman, and part medical memoir. Absolutely beautiful in its description of nature, and human bodies relation to nature.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Essentially a non-religious Terry Tempest Williams.
Wendell Hennan
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story rambles significantly, telling of her life for two years after being struck by lightening. Often full of interesting information about neutrons and other attributes in our bodies and how the electrical charge from lightening strikes throws those systems out of sync. Also the number of conferences and meetings with other people who suffered similar events was interesting with statistics on survival etc. She basically spent the next several years in a mid life crisis trying to find her w ...more
Byron Edgington
Dec 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Here we have a memoir based on a woman’s ordeal after being struck by lightning. But perhaps more than memoir as such, it’s a series of essays on the bodies reaction and response to such an event, and the way the human body protects itself, even when its owner attempts to override such protective mechanisms.
Ehrlich is often referred to as a travel writer. The label does her little justice insofar as her writing qua writing goes, as they say in creative writing classes. Maybe travel poet works b
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
“If I held a match to my heart, would I be able to see it’s workings, would I know my body the way I know a city, with its internal civilization of chemical messengers, electrical storms, cellular cities in which past, present, and future are contained, would I walk the thousand miles of arterial roadways, branching paths of communication and coiled tubing of waste and nutrients, would I know where the passion to live and love comes from?”

This quote made me want to read this book despite the la
Terri Kempton
Jun 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Let me start by saying that I've enjoyed Ehrlich's other writing, but found this caught up in detail and only moderately interesting. Match was the short and overly simple story of getting struck by lightning and the following two years of recovery. I hate to criticize the book because her journey is as admirable as it is arduous, but from a purely literary standpoint it suffers from the same wandering, wondering pointlessness she confronts as a survivor. I think it was meant to be a cross betwe ...more
Miz Lizzie
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: alaska, lightning, wyoming
This memoir is Gretel Ehrlich's account of being struck by lightning or, more specifically, of her recovery from being struck by lightning. After the appaling lack of sensible, let alone compassionate, medical care that she initially received, she finally receives care from Dr. Blaine Braniff, a truly gifted healer. The book zig-zags like lightning from here to there, spending a lot of time on science, both of the body and of nature, some of which was interesting but a lot of which had my eyes g ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who are interested in people who have been struck by lightning
Shelves: life-stories
This book chronicles the two years after the author was struck by lightning. It follows her mental and physical healing as she travels from Wyoming to California to London back to California, back to Wyoming, back to California. Oh, yes, Alaska was in there too.

It also chronicles her love for her cattle dog and its own health woes.

Erlich writes a poetic prose that is spiritual and scientific, sometimes confusing but always beautiful.

My favorite chapters are the ones where she follows her docto
Jun 16, 2007 rated it liked it
I love Gretel Ehrlich's other writing and was really interested to hear her story of recovering from being struck by lightning. The book is not so much a memoir as it is a meditation on her recovery. It winds all over the place and is laced with lots of annoying Buddhist musings and somewhat-random stories. Still, being a science nerd, I loved that whole sections and chapters were devoted to discussing autonomic regulation, cardiovascular function, and just how incredible the human body and its ...more
Stacy Carlson
May 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
I would never wish a lightning strike on anyone, of course, but if it had to happen to someone it might as well be a breathtakingly skilled writer who possesses the curiosity, gumption, tenacity and all-around toughness to not only pull through a devastating injury, but also to chronicle her journey through it with such grace and insight. This book, written early in her career, proves that to label Gretel Ehrlich a travel writer is to grossly misjudge her work. Her narrative transcends categoriz ...more
Dec 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: nature aficionados
it's like reading a very long National Geographic article--without any cool pictures to go along with it. The eloquent prose creates its own imagery, but by the end the reader is tired of being addled with clever figures of speech as the story that gets repetitive and loses its initial steam. Not to be snotty, as I know writing is hard work, but I found two factual errors--one regarding human anatomy and one about sharks--and this bothered me for the rest of the book.
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
As much about the kind of person who lives in the sparsely populated West as it is about lightening. Ehrlich curiously romanticizes lightening, her dogs and her cardiologist but glosses over her distant relationship with her husband & her extended kinship network. These gestures add up to a sense that isolated people who live in the hills and use expressions like "as the crow flies"--these are the people who are hit by lightening.
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the second book of Ehrlich's that I've read this summer. The first one was better, but this one was very good, too. She writes clear, thoughtful prose. This book is about her recovery from being struck by lightening. It's more than "how I got better," because she shares with the reader what she explored in the science and medicine realms, as well as providing an unsentimental descriptions of recovery.

I plan to find more of her books, but after I take a break.
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ehrlich's harrowing experience of being struck by lightning and her long journey back to health is woven into a meandering story that explores, among other things, the human body, weather, and Buddhist beliefs regarding the afterlife. I find all of those topics quite interesting yet I was disappointed by this book. To me, it seemed lacking and bloodless, too removed for such a personal story, and left me with little sense of the author's true voice.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a powerful memoir that covers Gretel's long trek toward recovery from being stuck by lightening. Now over 60 and dynamic as ever, she continues her adventures. She has spent seven seasons in Greenland with Inuits and three seasons in Honshu, Japan with tsunami survivors. If you would like to become a Gretel Ehrlich fan, this is a good place to start.
Julie Buckles
Jun 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Gretel Ehrlich tells the story of being struck by lightning on her Wyoming ranch and her long recovery in California. Learned about lightning, about medicine and about the California coast. One friend noted there's too much navel gazing and this is true sometimes, but she's a writer, she's sick, she doesn't have kids and she writes beautifully so gaze away Gretel.
Jan 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I love Gretel Ehrlich's prose, but this is not her best book. The first half is fascinating, full of details of the neurological and cardiac aftereffects of a lightning strike as well as ruminations on the nature of recovery, but the second half is much duller: a somewhat cliched story of how a Good Dog and a Good Man and Living By The Ocean can help one overcome any obstacle.
i am always fascinated by gretel ehrlich's manner of living, so i loved this glimpse of how she dealt with being struck by lightning (!) i liked the twin narratives of her relationship with her healers, one a doctor, the other a dog. and i admire her looseness and unwillingness to package her experience too neatly (even though sometimes i want more shape in her narrative).
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Ehrlich recounts being struck by lightning and the 2-year journey of rehabilitation which she had to travel to get back to come thing like her original life. she takes an excursus into neurophysiology and brain chemistry, finds imagery in the sea, and searches for enlightenment with which to perceive her experience.
Dec 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Ehrlich has a fascinating true story to tell about being struck by lightning while walking her dogs on her ranch. A great blend of science, memoir, and prosaic introspection. My 2nd time reading this book.
Nov 01, 2008 rated it liked it
An in-depth look at surviving being struck by lightning and how her life was changed by the event as a result (physically, emotionally, mentally...). I'm a bit squeamish so some of the passages were a bit much for me, however.
Tracy O
Oct 12, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
This book is really chilling. One day your life is your life and the next day nothing works and you don't know why. When you're sick stuff doesn't work and the author is trying to fit into the well-person's paradigm. This book is worth reading, but it's not an easy read.
Nicole Harkin
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
The first half of this book was engaging and interesting. Then she stopped actually telling the story of her getting struck by lightening. She stops telling the reader all of the details about her experience which help the reader stay grounded in story. Great beginning, weak second half.
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love the way this woman writes. This is the story of her experience of and recovery from being struck by lightning.
Laura Gray-Rosendale
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Wow does Ehrlich have a way with language. I'm in awe. This is a definite read.
Peg Lotvin
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
True story of a woman hit by lightning in Wyoming, the long road to recovery and the many episodes of slipping backwards in the recovery. Introspective.
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Gretel Ehrlich is an American travel writer, novelist, essayist, and poet born on a horse ranch near Santa Barbara, California and educated at both Bennington College in Vermont and UCLA film school. After working in film for 10 years and following the death of a loved one, she began writing full-time in 1978 while living on a Wyoming ranch where she had been filming. Her first book, The Solace o ...more
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