Will & I

Clay Byars. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-29028-3
In this memoir of suffering and recovery, Narrative editor Byars recounts his struggle to master a body shattered by tragedy. As a college sophomore, Byars was severely injured in a car accident. Botched surgery led to a massive brain-stem stroke, leaving Byars quadriplegic. Resisting the diagnosis, he gradually recovered the use of his limbs, though he continued to suffer physical deficits. For Byars, reconstructing himself as a social being was equally difficult, especially in comparison to his uninjured identical twin, Will. Writing became central to Byars's creation of a new identity, even as Will married and started a family. Byars describes his losses and slow progress in succinct, unsentimental prose. The most striking feature of the memoir is his emotional distance. Even Will, his genetic double, plays only an occasional role in Byars's narrative. In an intriguing stylistic choice, Byars blends past-tense narration of his accident and aftermath with present-tense descriptions of life on an isolated rural property. Byars's minimalist approach and his remove make for a fascinating, if chilling, meditation on the aftermath of trauma. The themes that appear in the final chapter would have benefited from earlier development, but they provide a remarkable conclusion to his long calvary. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/16/2016
Release date: 06/21/2016
Ebook - 978-0-374-71483-3
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