A blog to share my enthusiasm for books.
‘Left Neglected’ by Lisa Genova is a novel that really opened my eyes. For those who think fiction is a waste of time think again. You can learn so much from a well-crafted story, one which helps you to understand how someone is feeling as they cope with life’s traumas.
I hadn’t heard of this author before but this book got some very welcome publicity from Richard and Judy and so I bought it.
The author is a qualified neuroscientist and in order to research the book she talked to as many people with Left Neglect as she could. Do you know what Left Neglect is? I’d never heard of it and even the author had never actually met anyone with the condition until she started her research.
The condition occurs after a traumatic head injury, such as our ‘heroine’ suffers. The right side of the brain is affected in such a way that it no longer registers anything on the left hand side of the person. It must be a strange thing, not to be able to see anything to your left. I suppose the nearest experience is a migraine sufferer who loses part of their sight temporarily during an attack. I once worked with someone who suffered in this way. On day she said, ‘Oh no. I can’t see you. I’ve got a migraine starting. Where’s my tablets?’ For her it was a bizarre condition, but at least it was temporary.
What must it be like to lose, in effect, half of your body as well as half of everything else? Sufferers experience difficulty understanding what has happened. When they look in a mirror they see a complete face but if, for example, they put make-up on they only put it on the right side, whilst thinking they have put it on all over. How weird must that be!
Sufferers have no control over the left leg or left hand. They need to learn to walk again and teach their brain to recognise the left hand. Patients may use a charm bracelet on the left wrist so they can hear where the left hand is but I cannot imagine how hard it must be. The left arm won’t do as it should. Involuntary movements aren’t even registered by the sufferer. Their left hand may be waving in the air but they don’t know.
Some never fully recover but many make such significant progress that they can hold down a job and drive a car.
As if that isn’t enough sufferers don’t see the left side of a page, a room or even written words. These difficulties can all be overcome with reading aids and perseverance but how folk cope with all that as well as the hand/leg/foot stuff at the same time as recovering from what must have been a horrific accident beggars belief. They are amazing people.
So, back to the book. Our ‘heroine’, Sarah, is a super-high-achieving business executive, working 80 hours a week, and sharing the care of 3 children and running a household with her husband and nanny. She is either in a meeting, using a laptop whilst on the phone, using her mobile whilst driving in rush hour traffic………………………… small wonder her life, as well as her car, is about to crash.
In the rest of the book we learn about her childhood via traumatic dreams. The relationship with her mother, disfunctional at the beginning of the book, changes and develops as she moves in with the family to help her daughter. As Sarah makes some progress decisions must be made. Should Sarah return to work, part-time, ie 40 hours a week! Will she ski again or should she be happy to stay and watch? Should the family move house?
And what of the children? Charlie, the eldest, behaves badly at school. Why? Can he help his mother’s recovery?
The frustration of her condition and therapy cause Sarah much heartache. It’s one step forward and two back at times. How do you fasten buttons with only one hand which will do as you want? How can you put on your watch if your left wrist won’t stay where you want it to? How can you walk if you don’t know where the left foot is?
But through it all shines hope, tenacity, humour and love. I found it inspiring.
One thing which shocked me was the American health system. Sarah lives in the USA and has proper health cover but once she is in the rehab unit the clock starts to tick. As soon as she stops making progress the insurance stops paying. They will pay if she is getting worse and they will pay if she is still making progress, but now she has hit a plateau, as happens with most long-term rehabilitation, they stop paying so she has to go home, even if she doesn’t feel ready.
Right, that’s me off my soap box. Get this book and read it.