Early on an April morning in 1972 Patrick Segal, an athletic 24-year-old Frenchman, was accidentally shot in the back with a...

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THE MAN WHO WALKED IN HIS HEAD

Early on an April morning in 1972 Patrick Segal, an athletic 24-year-old Frenchman, was accidentally shot in the back with a .32 caliber pistol while visiting friends in the mountains. A medically-trained physical therapist, Segal knew he was near death and by force of will directed the rescue operation that carried him across the Swiss border to a hospital in Geneva. Doctors were unable to extract the bullet because it was too deeply imbedded in the bone, and he came off the operating table a paraplegic. Told abruptly and coldly that he would never regain the use of his legs, Segal took that as a challenge: ""my own life in my own hands for a battle to the death."" And he was better prepared than most for a fight. The sickly child of immigrant Jews who both became dentists, Segal had transformed himself before the accident into a champion skiier, gymnast, and volleyball and rugby player. That same self-mastery was used after the accident to struggle against his limitations, and against well-meaning people who would keep him infantilized in a hospital setting. Instead he set off in his wheelchair around the world, visiting Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, South Vietnam (just before the fall of Saigon), Venezuela, Brazil--giving lectures, appearing on television, becoming a professional photographer and an advocate for the rights of the handicapped. It's an impressive odyssey, often powerfully told, but sometimes too sketchy and discontinuous, sometimes flawed with an adolescent romanticism and preoccupation with the beau geste. But his youthful spirit and determination as he gradually shifts from an obsession with a physical cure to a desire to make the most of life--whether he regains the use of his legs or not--is entirely convincing.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980