Traumatic brain injury garners headlines when it comes to the ethics and big business of professional sports, but what happens when a single blow to the head alters the course of one PhD candidate’s life? That question—and all the ones that followed about identity, shame, and perseverance—burned hot in my mind as I read Sarah Vallance’s lyrical memoir.
It begins with a simple accident, no blood, no dramatic visit to the hospital, just a bump on the head and a dazed drive home. One single, violent blow and then things begin to be taken from Sarah. There are immediate measurable losses: her IQ is slashed by roughly 40 percent, her job disappears, her strained family breaks apart, and she isolates herself, trusting only her dogs to love and understand her. But there are insidious immeasurable shifts too: her personality changes, language and logic evade her, and her shattered confidence melts into a period of depression and confusion. In short, the things that Sarah believed defined her—intelligence and ambition—begin to disappear completely.
While many of us readers may have been lucky enough to avoid staring into a similar abyss, I must admit that, in a similar position, I may have given up and resigned myself to a life of hiding at home. But Sarah is made of more resilient stuff. Prepare to feel heartbreak, frustration, and anger as you watch Sarah fall headfirst into the void, but know those feelings will be followed by pride, hope, even some laughs, and a deepened understanding of the personal experience of brain injury as you watch Sarah decide—over and over again—to pull herself out, to grieve each new thing she has lost, and to look forward to an altered but untrammeled future.
— Laura Van der Veer, Editor