Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Brave Woman, A Brave Book

Book Title: Living to Tell About It, A Pursuit of Normalcy
Author: Amy Y. Martin
ISBN Number: 978-1-4357-1449-6
Genre and Target Market: memoir; women; personal medical issues
Publication Date: 2008
Book Length in Pages: 149

When young men and women leave for college, they anticipate the newfound freedoms and responsibilities that will come with life away from home. Like all teenagers, Amy Martin likely felt invincible as she prepared to take on the world. However, in her first endeavor as an author, Mrs. Martin shares with her readers an amazing series of health crises that took her down roads she never could have anticipated. Her story is one of strength and survival, and her determination to live a normal life leaves each reader as her personal cheerleader.

Amy Martin’s first medical nightmare started at the age of nineteen when she experienced a stroke upon exiting the pool on her college campus. As she writes in the first chapter, “I came up to the surface and experienced an excruciating pain above my right eye … Little did I know this would be the beginning of a long journey.” As Mrs. Martin shares with the readers, she was an athlete who appeared the picture of health. Who thinks of a teenager as being prone to a stroke while swimming laps in the pool? This striking scenario of the first chapter automatically reminds the reader that nothing in life can be taken for granted.

Living to Tell About It goes on to explain Amy Martin’s struggles with a partial and later a full colectomy, a resulting MRSA infection, head trauma from a severe car accident followed by intensive and lengthy physical therapy, Graves’ disease, gallbladder surgery and the death of her mother. Amy’s story unfolds in a chronological fashion, meeting the readers during her freshman year at North Carolina State and bringing us to her current life nearly twenty years later as wife and mother of two sons.

While brief explanations of the diseases are given and resources are provided for those who wish to learn more about each condition, details about Graves’ disease or colon cancer is not the focus of the book. I do not believe the author ever intended to thoroughly inform us of the specifics surrounding each medical crisis that she experienced, as a much longer book would have been needed to do each episode justice!

Instead, the most compelling aspect of Martin’s book is the sense the reader gets of her unending battles to keep her body and mind healthy. As each page is turned, Martin experiences a new, unexplainable symptom or prepares for another surgery. She makes us feel the exhaustive repetition with which each new hurdle was met and conquered. As I progressed through each chapter, I kept reminding myself, “This is all actually happening to one person!” Just when you think you will get a chance to take a deep breath and enjoy a sense of normalcy with Mrs. Martin, another episode knocks you out of complacency.

I am drawn to how relatable Amy Martin becomes through the course of her memoir. Through all of the compelling problems of surgeries gone awry and life-threatening infections, Mrs. Martin uses ordinary details to help us feel connected to her extraordinary life. The sports store where she met her high school boyfriend, the time she played hooky from physical therapy to enjoy some chocolate and a soap opera, the songs played at her wedding–all of these moments could be written by us or the people we love.

Amy Martin has a casual, storytelling style with her writing that makes her approachable to the reader. We are introduced to her parents, her boyfriends and eventual husband and the healthcare workers who were integral players in her recovery. She takes the time to proudly share the military service of her father and grandfather and still feels an amazing bond to a therapist with whom she has had no contact in years. Through Mrs. Martin’s emphasis on the other people in her life, she reminds us that relationships are tested and strengthened when tragedy strikes. None of these illnesses is faced in a vacuum.

The first offering by Amy Martin, Living to Tell About It, A Pursuit of Normalcy is an amazing story of faith, family and survival. By getting to know Amy, I am now drawn to learn more about the various conditions she has endured through her life. It is obvious that the author has a passion for the care and well-being of others, and has offered her story as testimony to others who may be feeling despondent over their own life situations. As she tells us, she will never return to “normal” but she spends each day working towards the general sense of normalcy. With the many trials she has faced in this process, I am certain that Amy Martin has more powerful stories to share through her writing in the future.

No comments: