Moving, sometimes belabored memoir, mostly by astronaut Kelly, of Giffords' miraculous recovery after narrowly surviving an assassination attempt.
That shooting, in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011, left Giffords with a massive head wound and severe trauma to the brain. Nonetheless, as most readers know, she bravely returned to the floor of Congress to cast her vote in the last budget battle. By summer she was well enough, Kelly reveals, that she was able to give map directions in her hometown. Yet the road to recovery has been grueling and sometimes dispiriting: “ ‘It’s awful,’ Gabby will say, and I have to agree with her.” Of the shooter himself, so much in the news, we learn little in these pages; understandably, it seems that Kelly and Giffords do not wish to accord him any space in their book. What they offer instead is a detailed, sometimes diary-like record of recovery that is nothing but inspirational, as well as an account of a marriage of two ambitious and extremely busy people. Kelly is evenhanded, but he clearly places some responsibility for his wife’s shooting on the overheated politics of the day. Her opponent was fond of hoisting automatic weapons as a sign of his toughness, while Sarah Palin placed rifle-scope targets on Giffords’ district. Even after the shooting, politics prevailed. Kelly notes that while former President George H.W. Bush, who was out of office long before Giffords entered politics, made efforts to visit her in the hospital, Speaker of the House John Boehner did not, even when he was in Houston for other reasons. Kelly’s prose—how much he owes to near–ghost writer Zaslow we do not know—is mostly workmanlike; the only spark we get is when we hear Giffords in her own words, as when she notes simply, “It was hard but I’m alive…I will get stronger. I will return.” And there are many moments that don’t seem to have a place except as filler, mostly having to do with Kelly’s experiences before the couple met.
A welcome and heartfelt effort. We eagerly await the day when Giffords herself can more fully flesh out her story.