One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage, and the Language of Healing

Diane Ackerman, Foreword by
Diane Ackerman, Norton, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-07241-9
Reviewed on: 01/31/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-393-08182-4
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-0-393-34174-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-4498-5885-8
Hardcover - 543 pages - 978-1-4104-3648-1
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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: "[t]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.)
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