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on 7 February 2013
This was a very honest and thought provoking book. Tha account by James and his wife was so enlightning. I have a brain injury and had difficulty coming to terms with some of the changes that I had experienced since my brain operation. This book made me realize that I was not alone in what I was experiencing and that other peoples understanding of brain injury is limited. If you break a leg it is a visible injury and people understand but a head injury cannot be seen and you look normal so therefore you are O.K. My head injury is quite minor but the changes in me are very noticable and can be very annoying to loved ones who cannot accept the changes. I am not aware that I am any different. I Know now because people have told me. My children said that they want their Mum back, My partner wants my sparkle to return.My family read this book too and they are now more informed about head injury. The brain is so complex that the slightest thing knocks it out of kilter wirh sometimes devastating affects. This book will appeal to people who have had a brain injury or know someone that has. I wish others would read it to so they can be come enlightened.
A great read for anyone.
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on 16 March 2015
I thought the book was well worth reading.

It seemed to be an honest account of how an Olympic champion is made, the determination that makes you a top athlete, and then a thought provoking story post accident of how the brain injury can change you as a person.

Really enjoyed reading the book and would recommend to others.
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on 29 March 2017
All Good thank you
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on 5 June 2017
Not bad
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on 29 April 2017
An excellent insight for anyone who needs to understand the issues of traumatic brain injury sufferers and how it can change and effect everyday life for those nearest and dearest.
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on 31 March 2013
James has so much strength and desire to complete a challenge that nothing is unachievable to him.
I'm sure he gives ten of thousands of people an incentive to help others
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on 1 October 2013
Reading this book was always going to have a special meaning to me, as my wife had a stroke about two years ago. Like James and Bev, my wife and I are writing a book together about our experience. We honestly came up with the same chapter layout as them -- alternative narrations.

In these types of post-tragedy biographies, there are introductory chapters of the characters' backgrounds. A get-to-know-you before the injury sequence. This is fine, but in Touching Distance, the full first half of the book is a repetitive account of Cracknell's numerous athletic achievements. He is a very competitive individual; I get it.

At the moment of his near fatal injury, the engagement with the reader much improves, perhaps because both Bev and James are describing their separate perspectives of the events unfolding before them.

I write as a carer for a stroke survivor, so I have an empathy with Bev's words. But I can attest that my wife would sympathise with James's.

Bev describes learning the new vocabulary of brain injury as "taking bullets" that she would have to carry for the rest of her life. This is true.

And this unwelcomed circumstance reflects the wider dimension of changed lives. At times Bev tells James, "You're not the man I married" and "I still miss James." James has told the world, "I'm no longer James Cracknell." His description of how the injury has affected his outlook is very honest and in my opinion, the most compelling part of his story.

Both mention how it's the invisible dimension of brain injury that is more difficult to deal with. This is true, too.

Case in point was James's description of neuropsychologist and psychiatrist tests:

"They only knew me as a patient post-accident but not the person I was or what I was capable of before the accident. So how could they impose these ceilings on my recovery based on results from generalised tests?"

We have the same complaint. In fact, neither of us were ever asked about our personalities or habits pre-injury. I still don't understand scientifically how anyone could make predictions without examining what made a person tick before an injury.

James also recalled a qualified compliment he received after giving television commentary: "That was really good," he was told, "especially for someone with a brain injury." Like anyone with a disability, James said that he wants to be judged as a person, not someone with a brain injury.

With me present, a specialist once told my wife that before speaking she could tell strangers that she has had a stroke (to explain why her voice isn't as clear). I counter-suggested that she should not, to reduce the likelihood of her being patronised. Unlike James, my wife is not famous, so it has been easier for her to present herself as herself, and not someone with a brain injury.

Both James and Bev are told that the majority of marriages fail when one has had a brain injury. It is easy to see why. Bev describes how the dynamics of a marriage of mutuality changes to one of physical and mental dependency. It's not easy to deal with, I know. And James acknowledges this, in describing his marriage now as more of a business partnership. Both want their relationship to move back towards the centre.

Bev tells of the experience of a new friend whose marriage came undone three years after her husband's accident. Bev asked what was the final straw? "His lack of confidence. It killed me. I couldn't live with it." Bev said that she knew what she meant.

Thankfully, my wife still has confidence: "If we've survived this, we can survive anything ... it's the ultimate challenge."

So although Touching Distance isn't the best written prose, like dealing with an unwanted challenge, it is worth persisting with to reach a positive conclusion and hope for a better future.
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on 31 October 2012
Beautifully written, inspirational book about the best and worst life can throw at you and one truely amazing family. Put down your 50 Shades and read about a real life hero and heroine instead.
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on 12 January 2013
I have always admired James Cracknell, firstly for his achievements as a rower, and then as an endurance athlete, but this book is probably one of the most inspirational reads I've encountered because of the authors searing honesty about their relationship and the effect James accident has had on them and their family. I hope this book becomes a reference for families who have experienced a member have a brain trauma, and the adjustment, patience and love needed to prevail. Although they obviously have a different relationship from before, this book still illustrated the love the authors share.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2012
I am not necessarily a sporty person, but I have watched most of James' documentaries and enjoyed them. I remember his accident and I have read a few newspaper articles about it, some written by his wife.

The first half of this book is the story of James' early life, school, first teaching job (funny ancedote about what he would do at the back of the class!), first relationship and how he got into rowing. I did find this section interesting and it gives an insight into how determined James is and how competitive. He talks of how he was a shy person. I must admit seeing him interviewed etc, I never got this impression of him!

James met his wife Beverley Turner in 2000 and they married in 2002. They seemed very well matched. The story of their honeymoon is very amusing! Reading about James training schedule, I take my hat off to Beverley for being a very understanding wife, especially after the birth of their first child. It definitely doesn't sound easy to be married to an Olympian. After his second Olympic Gold Medal, James decided to retire from rowing and found his niche in endurance sports which culminated in his tragic accident.

The second half of the book deals with how James and most of all his wife and family learn to cope with the brain injury that changed all their lives. It is not all doom and gloom, there are some amusing moments especially after James comes out of his induced coma and begins talking with a very laa-di-dah British accent!

At the time of his accident they had two children but also Beverley had just discovered she was pregnant with their third child. This woman seems amazing to me. She has definitely gone through a lot and although all sympathy must lie with James, it is fair to say his wife and family deserve as much if not more sympathy.

When this book was about to be released I read a serialisation in a newspaper. Of course they decided to sensationalise one aspect of the book which is when an angry James tried to strangle his wife. I have since read that they both wrote their stories separately and did not read them until the final stages and Beverley told James they could take out that part if he wanted, but he wanted it left in to show how brain injury completely changes people and to help other families going through something similar. I like this line from Beverley 'Please forgive James the worst moments of this book'.

Another sad aspect of the 'new James' was his irritability towards his Son, Croyde. That can't have been easy for his son or Beverley as a mother. This acknowledgement from James to his son brought a tear to my eye 'Croyde - more than anyone you've suffered with me being different since the accident. I'll keep trying to make sure the shouty man is replaced by the man that tells funny jokes and dances like John Travolta'!

When I see James on TV, he just seems the same as before his accident but there are lots we don't see. He suffers seizures, therefore he can't drive, he has lost all sense of taste and smell, he mustn't overtire himself and has a different temperament to the old James.

This couple have been through a lot together. Beverley seems like a very strong person. During all this she has given birth to another child, had to care for three children, plus James and maintain her career. Beverley is told the statistic that after a brain injury, 75% of couples divorce. Although it is more than obvious reading between the lines that their marriage has suffered a great deal and is not what it was, it is also evident that they are both working at the marriage and James continued recovery. I hope their marriage stays intact.

These words written by Beverley also brought a tear to my eye - The word 'bravery' is often used to describe James crossing ice fields or rowing oceans. That isn't brave. Brave is allowing his story to be told so fully and so openly so that he may help other people in his situation. Brave is refusing to be defeated by the brain injury. That's the man I love - it's an honour to share such a life.

This book and this couple are very inspirational. I wish them both nothing but happiness. It's an excellent read and I can't recommend it enough.
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