"In this deeply felt memoir that’s more philosophical than medical, a personal injury lawyer’s resilience, natural tenacity, and support from a strong family and a few close friends spur his seemingly miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury that should have destroyed him..... The writing style is informal, conversational and forthright, and the short chapters make for easy reading. Accounts from family members and a close friend augment this portrait of a determined man who fought his way back from the abyss. “I wanted to live,” he says, summarizing it all."– Kirkus Reviews
A drama investigates the role religion plays in the lives of Mexican-Americans living in southern Texas amid the dangers of drugs and violence.
Nancy didn’t go to the same high school as Paco, something he knew immediately when he saw her red hair; she was a guera, someone who was Mexican but looked white. The two quickly start dating and fall profoundly in love, a connection far deeper than typical teenage infatuation. They come from distant worlds, though—Paco is an altar boy with a keenly inquisitive theological mind; his closest friend is a priest; and he intends to enter a seminary one day. Nancy comes from a family with connections to the nefarious underworld of crime. She was once a shiftless teen addicted to meth, and now she rejects mainstream Roman Catholicism in favor of Santa Muerte, a cult saint adopted by many Mexicans in explicit rejection of a Christianity they feel was imposed by European imperialists. Paco has no trouble accepting her sordid past but wrestles with what he sees as a lack of spiritual devotion and the possibility that his love for Nancy forecloses any attempt to fully answer his religious calling. Nancy, on the other hand, is frustrated that Paco thoughtlessly accepts a religious heritage foisted upon his people and interprets his attachment to it as evidence of intellectual dogmatism. Huerta (Broken Brain: Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury, 2014) starts his engrossing novel by revealing that Nancy somehow died and that Paco left. Now a priest has come to town to investigate the case, though it’s initially unclear why. An acquaintance of Paco’s from school—Esteban—relates the story to Father Willy, who is apparently intent on discerning whether Paco’s devotion to Catholicism survived the loss of his love. Huerta adroitly explores the racial and cultural schisms that characterize the Mexican community—a history of miscegenation and colonial conquest necessarily produced a diffuse cultural identity. He also deftly captures without sentimentality a world caught between squalor and spirituality, where both degradation and transcendence are equally possible.
A thoughtful, moving tale about adolescent love and spirituality.
In this deeply felt memoir that’s more philosophical than medical, a personal injury lawyer’s resilience, natural tenacity, and support from a strong family and a few close friends spur his seemingly miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury that should have destroyed him.
Debut author Huerta compellingly and without self-pity recounts his long bounce back from a horrific 1998 skiing accident in Colorado in which he collided with a tree and fractured his skull in 23 places. Huerta, of Corpus Christi, Texas, then 31 years old and by his own account “living the fancy life at the end of the last millennium,” lay near death and in a coma for 12 days at a Denver hospital, his head grotesquely swollen. Doctors gave his family a grim prognosis: Even if he survived, he would be severely disabled and probably unable to walk or talk. But Huerta came out of the coma and ultimately regained his ability to walk, his voice, driver’s license, independence and much of his former existence. Never mind that the first several years following the accident were filled with black holes. He learned that life goes on even with whole volumes of memory lost. Though he credits doctors with saving his life initially, his recovery relied on a regime he more or less devised on his own, which involved regular exercise with weights at a local gym and strategic Botox injections. Did his father Albert’s promise to God to give $1 million to the church if his son were restored explain Huerta’s astounding rebound? Huerta doesn’t know, but he does believe that “in the end the brain seemingly heals in a mystical manner.” In a stunning metaphor, he describes the process as a gradual unfolding: “Imagine a piece of artwork like the Mona Lisa, folded up and stuffed in a duffel bag,” he writes. “Your mind unfolds itself.” This kind of highly original insight pervades the book. The writing style is informal, conversational and forthright, and the short chapters make for easy reading. Accounts from family members and a close friend augment this portrait of a determined man who fought his way back from the abyss. “I wanted to live,” he says, summarizing it all.
Authentic and genuinely inspirational.