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My Year Off: Recovering Life After a Stroke Hardcover – September 17, 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On July 28, 1995, Robert McCrum suffered a severe stroke at the age of 42. His thoughtful memoir chronicles the long, arduous process of recovery. Drawing on his own diaries and those of his wife, Sarah Lyall (then the publishing columnist for the New York Times), McCrum presents a detailed portrait of the physical and psychological effects of a stroke. His speech was impaired and his left arm and leg were paralyzed, but almost worse was the emotional havoc those disabilities wrought. As the hard-driving, hard-living editor of English publishing house Faber & Faber, McCrum had defined himself for 20 years by what he did--now he was forced to ask himself who he was. He ruefully admits that his upbringing in the privileged British upper-middle class, traditionally suspicious of introspection, had ill prepared him for such a struggle, and he pays loving tribute to his American spouse's crucial role in his recovery. (Indeed, the excerpts from Lyall's diaries, which honestly reveal doubt, fear, and anger, are among the book's most moving sections.) Famous friends like Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje make appearances at McCrum's London hospital bedside, but Lyall is the narrative's heroine, and the hard-working staff of physical and speech therapists the invaluable supporting players. The author's lucid explanation of stroke's medical aspects and thorough account of his slow progress toward nearly full recovery will inform and inspire other stroke victims, but at heart this is a touching marital love story and an exciting drama of personal rebirth. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

McCrum (The Story of English), editor-in-chief of the British publisher Faber & Faber, was 42 years old and newly married when, one night in the summer of 1995, he suffered a massive stroke that almost killed him. This account of how that night changed his life, told with a skillful blend of candor, humor and comprehensible medical reportage, is not only an enthralling read but also calls attention to the little-known fact that strokes, normally thought of as an affliction of the elderly, attack younger people with remarkable frequency. As it turned out, McCrum was lucky; he almost entirely regained the use of his limbs, although he has a sluggish arm and tires easily. His personality also changed, from hard-driving and aggressive to reflective and relaxed. His marriage to Sarah Lyall, who, when he met her (at the Frankfurt Book Fair) was the New York Times publishing correspondent, obviously helped enormously in his recovery. Some of the most touching segments in the book are excerpts from Lyall's journals of dealing with her husband's slow recovery and his own thoughts on his sometimes harsh and bitter behavior as he strove to regain his life. The book offers solace to those similarly afflicted and is also a moving human document that, because of its protagonist, will be of particular interest to those in the book business.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (September 17, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393046567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393046564
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,207,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
McCum's book begins with a riveting account of his stroke and his efforts to get help when he finds himself alone in his two story flat, paralyzed, passing in and out of consciousness, and unable to get to a phone without somehow getting out of bed and going downstairs. The chapters that follow, explaining "brain attacks" were not particularly interesting to me as a physician, but may be of great interest to nonmedical people in search of information and understanding about strokes. The account of his slow physical recovery was interesting but it was his honest assessment of the mental anguish that he struggled with during this period that I found to be the most compelling part of this book. He painfully but courageously descibes his disenfranchisement with the "normal" world, his realization that he can never be the person he once was, his grief at having to give up his former life, and his fear in facing the new life that lay ahead of him as a disabled person. His willingness to expose his fear, his vulnerability, and his darkest moments of his depression would help anyone suddenly stricken with a life-changing illness that finds themselves in the same sort of environment that McCrum did -- surrounded by medical people who can't or won't confront his fears of not recovering, of having a recurrence, and of ever having the semblance of a normal life again. His struggle to discover who he really is after the stroke strikes a resonant note in all of our lives, as he points out that this struggle is often simmering below the surface of our busy lives, begging to be attended to, but ignored and pushed back under the surface because we often do not have the time or energy to pursue the question.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book will help stoke victims, no matter the age, and their loved ones get the real facts, there is no watering down here. My Year Off tells us that stroke victims can make a come back, but it is mighty hard, like I said, no watering down here. As the readers learn of Robert McCrumb's story they will feel as if they are traveling the same journey and experiencing the same emotions as he. When Robert McCrumb awoke the morning of July 29 in 1995 he was unable to move. At the age of 42 he had a severe stroke. As Robert thrashed around in bed unable to sit upright, he wished Sarah; his wife of just 2 months was with him. He didn't experienced anxiety about his condition, just irritation and puzzlement. When a stroke occurs the brain suffers a hemorrhage infarct; the body experiences a colossal disturbance of its innate sensory equilibrium. Robert changed over night from a walking, talking person into an incontinent carcass, unable to make any sense out of his body. He kept passing out and wetting all over himself.
As he recuperated his mornings consented of Sarah showing up at eight in the morning with a tiny cup with a laxative type drink and fresh clothes. She also brought him the days post and the British newspapers, her addiction not his. Then he would be wheeled off by the nurses to have a bath, that was a laborious and exhausting process during which he tried to forget that the nurses were literally manhandling him moving him in and out of a wheel chair specially designed for use in the bath room.
Woven through the book are excerpts of Robert and Sarah's diaries, the reader is given a glimpse into their raw feelings and emotions as they go through this tragedy.
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Format: Paperback
MY YEAR OFF, Recovering Life After a Stroke By Robert McCrum
I understand the frustration of Robert McCrum trying to reach a telephone when he succeeded he found that he could barely make himself understood. I went through the same thing, but I was lucky enough that I was with my wife when the stroke occurred and although I couldn't talk I was put in an ambulance, took to the hospital and was under a doctor care within 40 minutes. Robert McCrum's stroke was much more severer that mine. He was hours getting to a doctor with his condition getting worse all the time...
Actually, this book is a very good autobiography of Mr. McCrum's life thought his stroke and recovery; although he is still recovering I am sure. And an interesting life it was and will continue to be. This book will be very useful to the members of my stroke club. Now, I will read the rest of his books. This one is worth five stars to me.
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By A Customer on June 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Very insightful book. Referring to the past reviewer who dismissed this book because Mr. McCrum's stroke was not catastrophic enough, I am very sorry to hear of your loved one's difficulties. However this book could be helpful to many who suffer lesser degrees of stroke and eventually recover fairly well. I can understand this book would not be useful to you personally in light of your experiences. I can say though without a doubt, as a stroke survivor, that even a mild stroke is something no person would EVER want to experience. It often strikes like a lightning bolt and even if function is eventually regained it is hard for a person to ever get over being completely paralyzed and helpless even for a short period of time. Books like Mr. McCrum's help the world at large start to realize stroke can affect anyone, even the young. Best wishes and good health to all.
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