Synopses & Reviews
Everyone who cherishes the gift of language will cherish Diane Ackerman's narrative masterpiece, an exquisitely written love story and medical miracle story, one that combines science, inspiration, wisdom, and heart. One day Ackerman's husband, Paul West, an exceptionally gifted wordsmith and intellectual, suffered a terrible stroke. When he regained awareness he was afflicted with aphasia--loss of language--and could utter only a single syllable: "mem." The standard therapies yielded little result but frustration. Diane soon found, however, that by harnessing their deep knowledge of each other and her scientific understanding of language and the brain she could guide Paul back to the world of words. This triumphant book is both a humane and revealing addition to the medical literature on stroke and aphasia and an exquisitely written love story: a magnificent addition to literature, period.
"Two phrasemakers and longtime married partners had to relearn a shared, intimate conversation post-stroke as Ackerman narrates in her touching latest work. Paul West, Ackerman's 75-year-old British husband (she is 18 years younger), was a retired English professor and the author of 50-plus books, survivor of diabetes and a pacemaker, when he was struck by a massive stroke that left 'a small wasteland' in his brain, especially in the key language areas. For literary minds like West and Ackerman, his inability to formulate language (reduced to repeating numbly the sounds 'mem, mem, mem' in anger and confusion) was a shock to them both: 'o be so godlike, and yet so fragile,' his wife writes in despair. Her memoir of this terrible time, first in the hospital, then at home, records the small victories in his speech making and numerous frustrating setbacks; she even took it upon herself to make up humorous but challenging exercises for him to do, Mad Libs style. Contrary to the bleak prognosis, West gradually made progress, while their journey makes for goofy, pun-happy reading, a little like overhearing lovers coo to each other. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Ackerman's best writing and best book to date." Antonio Damasio
"An intimate, richly documented, and beautiful memoir .... [A] double portrait of two remarkable people." Joyce Carol Oates
[T]ouching…their journey makes for goofy, pun-happy reading, a little like overhearing lovers coo to each other.Combine the brilliant sensibility of a poet and essayist with the compelling articulation of her mindful wisdom, and intense devotion, and voila—you have the powerful journey into the many ways love can inspire healing after profound brain damage. This gem of a book will captivate the many of us who have a relative or friend stricken by stroke—and will be of practical help to doctors and scientists as well as concerned family members. One Hundred Names for Love reminds us that healing is possible and that lives can be rebuilt from the inside out. --Daniel Siegel, M.D.
"Starred Review. Writing with her signature empathy, curiosity, brilliance, and mirth, Ackerman chronicles West's heroic battle to reclaim words and mobility and her tailoring of West's speech therapy to match his spectacular vocabulary and unique intelligence. A master of vivid metaphors and multifaceted narratives.... A gorgeously engrossing, affecting, sweetly funny, and mind-opening love story of crisis, determination, creativity, and repair." Booklist
"Diane Ackerman's most enjoyable, intimate, and heartrending work yet."--Atul Gawande
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize Finalist for the National Book Circle Critics Award "Diane Ackerman's most enjoyable, intimate, and heartrending work yet."--Atul Gawande
About the Author
Diane Ackerman has been the finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction in addition to many other awards and recognitions for her work, which include the best-selling The Zookeeper's Wife and A Natural History of the Senses. She lives with her husband Paul West in Ithaca, New York.