A cathartic chronology of one woman who, rather than being defined by her disability, resolved to live by her own design.
In 1995, while visiting a friend’s farm, Sydney, Australia, native Vallance was thrown from a horse, striking her head against a rock. Feeling no worse for the wear, she wrote it off as a freak accident and returned home with a splitting headache. The next morning, everything seemed fine aside from the mystery of how her toaster ended up in the freezer. However, after a battery of hospital tests, the author was told that she suffered a traumatic brain injury. Going from a well-paying position in government and pursuing a doctorate in public administration to having an IQ of 80 and rapidly worsening memory loss, her new condition threw Vallance into depression and emotional turmoil, with which she has struggled since. Discovering the promise of neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change throughout a person’s life, she was determined to finish her doctorate. Then she met Laura, a charming extrovert who became her first long-term lesbian partner and primary source of encouragement. In addition to introducing her many dog and cat companions, the author thoroughly explores the “lifetime of resentment” shared with her mother and pores over the dynamics of her other relationships. After winning a fellowship at Harvard, Vallance’s career pursuits carried her across continents, with stints in Singapore and Hong Kong, and then back to Australia, where she eventually met Louise, whom she eventually married. While certain sections of the narrative stray into a diarist’s minutiae, the book is powerful in its depiction of the author’s will to rise above the limitations of her disability rather than succumb to the obstacles and fears that encompass it.
With a mission of giving voice to the voiceless, Vallance shares the little-understood experience of surviving a traumatic brain injury.