stir: my broken brain and the meals that brought me home

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

I'm much later than I like to be posting a review for which I received an advanced copy - one can scarcely consider it an advanced copy if I can't manage to offer an opinion until almost a month after the publication date. 

But it is because of my attraction to this memoir that my offering is so delayed. I went for several months without taking on any advanced review copies due to several factors. But then around the date it was released I was became attracted to this book and starting hearing some incredible things about it. I finally broke my fast and asked Penguin Random House to allow me the opportunity.  

And my hedging was richly rewarded. Stir is just the loveliest of memoirs. Fechtor was 28 years old and training for a marathon when she collapsed on a hotel treadmill while at a conference. Taken to the hospital, she's happily ready to check out when she feels better within hours. But MRIs showed an aneurysm and she was in the unknowing time between the rupture and the subsequent attempt by the brain to heal... by reabsorbing the spilled blood, an incredibly painful process. Thus began her incredibly long, frustrating, frightening road to healing.

I can't even begin to adequately describe the horrors of the original insults and subsequent setbacks Fetchor went through and I would actually advise you against reading too much about this memoir or, especially, watching the book trailer video associated with it if you're interested in reading - just dive in. This is because much of my enjoyment of the memoir stemmed from those revelations and discoveries.

In addition to a fascinating experience and a recipe at the end of every chapter, Fechtor is also a fantastic writer. In her acknowledgements, she does mention a writing partner (Katrina Goldsaito)  - a person not mentioned on the cover, so I wonder just how heavily involved she was or perhaps she was more of guide/editor. In any case, it was a combination of these factors including the writing that carried my through, happy and fascinated:

"Everything happens for a reason? I don't see it that way at all. To me, only the first part is clear: Everything happens. Then other things happen, and other things, still. Out of each of these moments, we make something. Any number of somethings, in fact. What becomes of our own actions becomes the 'reason.' It is no predestined thing. We may arrive where we are by way of a specific path - we can take just one at a time - but it's never the only one that could have lead to our destination. Nor does a single event, even a string of them, point decisively to a single landing spot. There are infinite possible versions of our lives. Meaning is not what happens, but what we do with what happens when it does."

Highly recommended.