cover image Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery

Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery

Maxine Kumin. W. W. Norton & Company, $21.95 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04900-8

A skilled horsewoman and lifelong athlete, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Kumin (Quit Monks or Die!) was 73 in July 1998 when a riding accident left her with two broken vertebrae in her neck. Although 95% of such injuries are fatal, Kumin survived--only to face overwhelming odds that she would be paralyzed for the rest of her life. Miraculously, however, she was walking again within weeks of the accident; now, though one hand and an arm remain partially immobilized, her life has largely resumed its normal course. Here is the journal of her first nine months of recovery: a slow process in which she regains sensation in a toe or heel, struggles to put one foot in front of the other and is liberated from her catheter. Largely a story of pain and frustration, and of milestones that impressed her medical team but seemed to signal inordinately slow progress to Kumin herself, the volume also serves as a paean to the supportive family members, friends and fellow patients who helped her through the ordeal. The ""halo"" of the book's title was a very real immobilizing metal cage in which her head was enclosed for nearly three months. A profoundly uncomfortable device that induced claustrophobia and made sleeping impossible without the aid of narcotics, the halo saved Kumin's life by allowing her broken neck to heal; she makes it a symbol of both the positive and negative aspects of the recovery process. Candid about the many tribulations that accompany recovery from a serious injury, Kumin also meditates on how one can take a life that's interrupted with brutal abruptness and put it back together again. As such, this account offers both honesty and hope to others who face such traumatic experiences. (June)