The moving, poignant account of how a brilliant lawyer came to terms with the midlife discovery of his own partial deafness.
Attorney Shea heard sounds through an "invisible curtain" that gradually descended upon him after a boyhood bout with scarlet fever. Because he was so young when he began to lose his hearing, the author grew up believing that the world was not only quieter than it was, but that "spoken words were a riddle...everyone had to figure out." People communicated through a colorful, strangely beautiful "language of lyricals," which Shea uses throughout the text, to which he had to give meaning. Over time, he found that he could understand what others said to him by reading both lips and contexts. Shea excelled in school and attended Yale and then Columbia Law School. But academic success came only by dint of great effort and caused the breakup of a relationship that would haunt him into middle age. It wasn't until Shea was 34 and moving into a new job that he was finally diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Despite hearing aids and other sound-amplifying devices, however, Shea continued to struggle in his professional life. A meeting with a hearing-impaired former brain surgeon, who advised him to have the courage to "break [his] own heart," finally convinced Shea that, for the good of himself and his family, he needed to put aside his profession and learn to embrace the partial soundlessness that defined his reality. The book is a powerful expression of loss, acceptance and the very human need to communicate.
Shea's narrative derives its true power from the eloquence and intelligence with which he illuminates a world that may be unfamiliar to many readers.