CRY BABEL: The Nightmare of Aphasia and a Courageous Woman's Struggle to Rebuild Her Life by April Oursler Armstrong

CRY BABEL: The Nightmare of Aphasia and a Courageous Woman's Struggle to Rebuild Her Life

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the summer of 1972 a ruptured aneurysm robbed the author of most of her language skills; her near-""global aphasia"" left her with only seven remembered words, and the task of learning to read, write, and speak all over again. The account that follows this tragedy is not without its courageous side. Theology professor Armstrong suffered the indignities of a mouth that uttered obscenities while her brain willed something different; and who cannot sympathize with the mother of seven who has to inquire where babies come from? But she is not content with chronicling the details of her comeback. Hers is an intensely personal and mystical faith, and she records numerous dialogues with Jesus (occasionally Mary or Joseph too) which are largely aimed at explaining the necessity for her trial; she is made ""childlike"" so that she can ""learn to translate Babel"" (a barrier that separates ""those who are opened to be God's children,"" and particularly the handicapped, from the rest of the world). Jesus, who describes Himself as ""a good Jewish boy,"" turns out to favor an all-male clergy; and he is occasionally prone to anachronisms: at the Wedding Feast, ""Only the good people were invited, R.S.V.P."" Armstrong also hosts a parade of holy visitors and friends, some of whom perform feats of mystic clairvoyance; but few stick around long enough to be memorable. After a divorce and a failed (though gritty) attempt at returning to lectures, she seems to have weathered five years of exceptionally bad luck; but the intense, stream-of-consciousness self-absorption and the persistence of other-worldly perceptions render this account more confounding than affecting.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday