A bestselling historical novelist’s account of how she survived the harrowing year following her young husband’s unexpected stroke.
Pataki (Sisi, Empress on Her Own, 2016, etc.) and her husband, David Levy, were a charmed pair. Intelligent and privileged, both attended Yale University, where they first met as freshmen in 2003. David initially struck the author as a “self-involved, beer-swilling jock.” Over time, however, it became clear that he was not only athletic, but also brilliant and everything that Pataki could ever hope for in a man. Their fairy-tale courtship survived college and a transition to New York, where the author focused on building a career in journalism and David, on building one in medicine. The pair married eight years after they met in a ceremony that, like so much of their relationship, “went off without a hitch.” They moved to Chicago, where Pataki made an extremely successful transition into fiction writing while her husband began the grueling years of his residency at Rush University. In 2015, just as a now-pregnant Pataki was beginning her third book, David suffered a devastating stroke. The result of medically negligible imperfections in David’s anatomy and “a handful of unique situational circumstances,” the event was unthinkable for someone who was just 30. It was “so improbable that there was not even medical literature available” for doctors to consult. Miraculously, the youthful plasticity of David’s brain helped him recover within a year’s time to lead a normal yet permanently altered life. Supportive friends and family helped Pataki endure the aftermath of her husband’s illness, which she dealt with by writing “Dear Dave” letters—some of which she interweaves into the narrative—that chronicled their struggles. The strength of this end-of-innocence book lies in its demystification of the idea that strokes only occur in older people. At the same time, however, the story’s emotional intimacy often verges on overdone sentimentality.
A flawed but heartfelt account of dedication and devotion.