After the Stroke

Evelyn Shirk, Author Prometheus Books $35 (114p) ISBN 978-0-87975-693-2
Shirk ( In Pursuit of Awareness ) here offers an affecting if uneven account of her husband Jay's gradual deterioration due to a series of strokes. Following an early stroke in 1979, Jay found he could speak only in a kind of poetry--the stroke had obliterated his ability to fit words into logical sentences, and impelled him to express himself in metaphor. Ten years later, he was bedridden, curled in the fetal position; he died this year. The book, written by a retired chair of philosophy at Hofstra University, is a strange hybrid of how-to and narrative. Shirk describes the struggle to cope with illness and exhaustion, financial stress and emotional upheavals; she also questions the life-and-death decisions required of care-givers, often with little guidance from myopic doctors, and the frequent failure of traditional medicine to consider quality of life when treating the terminally ill. The author may be a plodding stylist and a poor storyteller, but the tale fascinates even so. One of the most powerful moments: her husband's refusal to use a tape recorder to continue his ``writings.'' Clinging to his identity despite the momentous changes in his brain, he explained, ``Thoughts come from my head, across my feelings, and down the right arm to my pencil.'' While his wife may lack his poetic gift, her prose is fitting testimony to their experience. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Paperback - 114 pages - 978-0-87975-694-9
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