Karen's Reviews > One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing

One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman
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May 28, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoir, science, psychology, aging
Read from May 28 to June 02, 2011

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 had on Paul, on her and on their marriage. Over the course of years, Paul and Diane found new ways of being, new ways to communicate and new ways to heal. As highly verbal and creative people, Paul and Diane recoiled from the conventional therapies, which relied too much on cliches and common-place language use. They had to devise forms of speech therapy tailored to Paul's interests and abilities. He beat the odds, largely due to their drive, their language-saturated home life, and their innovations.

Ackerman is very forthcoming about the challenges caregivers face as well. Like Paul, Diane suffers these trials in ways unique to her as an author. She never raised children, so plunging into caretaking really rattled her sense of self and threatened her work as a writer. Thus, she had to find a way to balance her marriage and her writing vocation.

Ackerman writes with such excesses: every paragraph is packed with images, some of them contrasting to the point of becoming mixed metaphors. She writes like a woman wearing too much make up and jewelry. But somehow I don't mind because she is brilliant in marrying concrete images to imaginative concepts. I actually met her at a book reading years ago in an indpendent bookstore in Milkwaukee; she's very charismatic. However, this is the first I've read her writing. I have a few other books on my nightstand right now, but I'll probably be adding some of her other titles soon.
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