Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience by Allison Pataki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was given an advanced copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It’s scary to think that every single person on this planet could suffer a traumatic brain injury that will irreparably alter their plans for the future. Most of us get lucky and never have to face this conundrum, but Allison and her husband Dave are not so fortunate. Dave suffers a terrible stroke deep in his brain and must re-learn how to be a person again and at the same time, Allison gives birth to their first child while raising her husband from his own infancy.
Pataki writes with so much emotion–I could feel her agonies, her frustrations, her joys. This book was an incredible work. Even though I am not religious, I honestly sat back and thought about Pataki’s deep faith in God and what I would do in such a situation. I realized that I would pray to every deity out there. No sense in not stacking the deck in our favor. I love a book that makes me re-evaluate my own beliefs and goals in life. Pataki’s Beauty in Broken Places did just that. Fantastic!
The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
As the step-parent of a child with mental illness, I’ve often wondered what is really going on in his head. Granted, he suffers from autism as well, but there was so much cross-over between Barbara Lipska’s experiences and what I see with my stepson. The idea that every human is just one unlucky event away from madness is terrifying, but Lipska presents her story brush with mental illness factually and scientifically in a way that only a scientist could. Despite the clinical nature of some passages, Lipska could be any of us, her family could be my own as we deal with the changes in one of our own, and the story it frighteningly relatable.
I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with mental illness in their family. I’ve already recommended it to a friend whose mother has dementia. It is a powerful passage into the psyche of someone in the throes of brain disease and it is a view not often granted to those on the outside.
The Danger Within Us: America’s Untested, Unregulated Medical Device Industry and One Man’s Battle to Survive It by Jeanne Lenzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow — this book was terrifying but it’s probably one of the most important books out there in the market right now. The Danger Within Us: America’s Untested, Unregulated Medical Device Industry and One Man’s Battle to Survive It has been on my radar since I saw a review on NPR and I’m so glad I was able to get an early reviewer copy. This book is well researched, insightful, and the most horrifying book I’ve read about the dysfunction in the United States’ healthcare system.
Having worked in the healthcare industry and suffering from a chronic illness, I’ve had more than my fair share of run-ins with the medical device industry. Even then, I had no idea just how corrupt the system really was. Learning that many medical devices are implanted with little or no testing is awful — especially when I consider the fact that I was thinking about having an off-label device implanted myself!
The United States is at a pivotal moment. There is a lot of upheaval happening. Perhaps this book could stir the pot and lead to change in the current healthcare system. I know one thing: Everyone should read this book before considering medical device implants. Do your research. Know your risks. Be your own advocate. The healthcare industry won’t help you there.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book is like if Stephen King and Lisa Genova had a baby. It’s creepy, it’s cerebral, it focuses on how a tiny brain misfiring can wreak havoc on everything in a person’s life. In short: it was great.
I’m a huge fan of the horror/thriller genre but I love a good science nonfiction book as well so this one was right up my alley. Zoje Stage’s debut novel focuses on a family that has it all — or at least they appear that way to the outside. However, inside their pristine home, life is a nightmare. Hanna is 7-year-old and has yet to speak. Suzette struggles with the pain of raising a disabled child while she herself is also quite ill. Alex rounds out the family as the handsome bread-winner, the prize possession of both his wife and daughter. Then one day, it all falls apart. Hanna speaks but what comes out of her mouth is devastating and terrifying. From there, things only get worse as Hanna invents dangerous ways to get back at her mother and Alex refuses to see the trouble his daughter creates. Everything comes to a head one fateful evening and nothing is ever the same after that.
The entire book had me on the edge of my seat as I waited for Hanna to concoct her next plan of attack. I felt Suzette’s fear, Alex’s anguish, and Hanna’s confusion. As the parent of an occasionally violent, mostly mute child, I know what it’s like to wonder what the day will bring. Luckily, I’ve never been in fear for my life but I could totally sympathize with Suzette the whole way through. Great read!
Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War by M. Evelina Galang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Content Warning: This book contains explicit descriptions of rape and torture that could be triggering to some survivors.
Lolas’ House is part history book, part memoir, and part biography. Eveline Galang interviews sixteen women who survived imprisonment as Japanese “comfort women” during World War II. These “women” were most often young girls, barely teenagers, stolen off the streets while running errands with siblings. They watched as parents, siblings, and spouses were tortured and murdered before they themselves are hauled away and forced into sexual slavery.
Galang mingles her own personal narrative with the testimonies of the survivors and the history of Filipino life during WWII. It is impossible to not be moved by the strength of these women. They have experienced the worst that humanity has to offer. Not only were they stolen from their homes as children but after daily rapes and slavery, many were rejected by their families upon their return. Yet, the women pushed on and now as very old women, they are fighting the Japanese government.
The only real issue with the book is that it immersed in the history and culture of the Filipino people. As someone outside of that circle, I would have liked a little more context around some of the traditions that are discussed. Likewise, there is some dialogue that is in the original languages of the women. This is noted in the author’s introduction but it was difficult to understand the longer passages. However, this in no way diminishes the book for me — it’s still an exceptionally moving read.
Lolas’ House comes at a pivotal moment. Many of the lolas express their desire to end war. They say over and over that they hope to keep other children safe from this fate. With the world poised on the edge of the cliff, I would behoove everyone to read Galang’s book. It is an incredibly powerful testimony to the horrors of war and the power of the human spirit to persevere. We cannot let this happen again.