A young woman is forced to unpack her own mind after suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm.
For a book about a woman whose brain nearly killed her and left her personality inexorably changed, there’s a counterintuitively strong sense of ego in this illuminating debut memoir by writer and activist Marks. On Aug. 23, 2007, the author, a theater actress and director, was singing karaoke in a bar in Edinburgh when she collapsed onstage. She awoke to a phenomenon she describes as “the Quiet,” a changed sense of consciousness attributed to the massive aneurysm that might have killed her. Her most profound symptom was not distress but aphasia, a critically compromised ability to read, write, or speak. Much of the material is awkward yet strangely expressive—Marks shares copies of her first abortive attempts to write—but it’s also revelatory about the process of recovery. “In my journals, a discovered word was a sacrament—a thing I could write,” she remembers. “And if I could write the thing, I could read it. If I could read the thing, I could often say it. The process indicated that there was much more to explore, a rapturous language life that could be sought, and more importantly, found.” The book’s self-exploration of its patient’s inner voice, frightening surgical interventions, and delicate recovery is captivating, but the ups and downs of her personal life are less so. It’s uncomfortable to see Marks lash out at her father (“You cannot write about this. None of this. No more EMAILS. NO BOOK. NOT EVER.”) and equally so to experience the protracted death of her relationship with a boyfriend. Still, while the book lacks the sweetness of Jessica Fechtor’s Stir (2015) or the scientific detachment of Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight (2008), readers will be compelled by the journey of a writer whose voice, however changed, remains her own.
A cerebral travelogue from a writer revealing how she got from there to here.