One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman
|One Hundred Names For Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An unsentimental look how the knowledge which a wife had of the way in which her husband's brain worked helped to lagely restore his power of speech. Very readable and utterly inspirational. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: May 2011|
|Publisher: WW Norton and Co|
|External links: Author's website|
Diane Ackerman's husband, Paul West, had been in hospital for three weeks with a kidney infection and was just rejoicing in the fact that he was to go home the next day. As Diane watched , Paul suffered a massive stroke. The effects were catastrophic, but worst of all, the man who had been a brilliant wordsmith was robbed of his power of speech and lost his extensive vocabulary. It's eight years since this happened and the intervening years have been a constant battle to improve Paul's speech and restore some joy to his life. There have been ups – and many downs – but despite a brain scan indicating that Paul might well be a vegetable he has since his stroke written books. His vocabulary will never be back to what it was, but it remains impressive and, strangely enough, many of the words which he finds easiest to use are those which he encountered a number of years ago.
I very nearly didn't read this book. To my shame, I had read nothing by Diane Ackerman before. The title - One Hundred Names For Love - put me in mind of a rather slushy romantic novel. The sub-title - A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing - made me even more dubious. It was only the fact that the book was to be published on Stroke Awareness Day UK (10 May 2 011) that made me wonder if there was more to the book than I had realised. I started reading – and was completely hooked.
One of Paul West's problems, but ultimately his main advantage, was that his vocabulary and his language were unconventional. The standard speech therapy offered to him confused rather than helped and it was only when his wife realised that he still had some connection with words which he had known for a long time that she saw a way of helping him. Paul was 'drenched' in words. There were times when he needed rest – besides everything else he's an octogenarian – but Diane ensured that his brain was worked as much as possible. The book charts the slow but steady progress.
Despite the title of the book, it is completely unsentimental. There's a lot of compassion and what Ackerman achieved might not be possible in every marriageable no matter how loving. She herself is a poet and, as the book demonstrates, is supremely gifted in her use of words. She could play with Paul West, and stimulated brain in ways which might not be possible for most people. The most important message, though, is that improvement is possible even in the most dreadful circumstances.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more about language we can recommend How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning and Languages Live or Die by David Crystal.
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