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Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience

Review

Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience

When misfortune strikes, almost no one is fully prepared. In the case of Allison Pataki and her husband, David Levy, it came like a tornado, devastating the shared life they had been carefully and lovingly constructing.

It could not have been more ironic. Allison (a writer) and Dave (in the final stages of medical school) were departing for a pleasure trip they called their “babymoon” since Allison was five months pregnant with their first child. Then Dave suddenly went blind in one eye while the couple was in flight. A nurse was summoned among the passengers, and an emergency landing was made in Fargo, North Dakota. By the time he was gurneyed off to the hospital, Dave was unconscious and death was a very real possibility. From that point onward, his recovery was painfully slow, his milestones sometimes so fragile that they might disappear almost as soon as they were reached. He had a complex brain disorder, almost unheard of in someone his age, with grave effects to the thalamus, which controls the mind’s “executive functioning.”

"The focal point of Allison’s memoir is the birth of her daughter Lilly, with Dave remarkably present just months after his massive trauma and able to participate like a mostly regular father in the labor and delivery."

Allison was frantic, depressed, terrified and comforted by turns. She had the support of two large and loving families with strong parents, wise grandparents and many siblings willing to take over some of the chores of bringing Dave back. He had to relearn how to walk, talk and think. A former athlete, the physical tasks were less daunting to him than the recuperation of memory and simple socialization. A man who had been on the brink of a brilliant medical career was being forced to figure out, like a toddler, what “voice” to use in public and private.

Allison’s coping mechanism went into gear very soon after the precipitating event, with her private letter writing. It seemed to give her some sense of calm to write to Dave. These letters are interspersed in the narrative, along with sage advice from a variety of sources and the appearance of at least one “guardian angel.” She contrasts the current, crucial goals and plateaus of Dave’s rehabilitation with the romantic, happy days of their college courtship when “life has not yet been too long or too hard and the luck has not yet run out.”

The focal point of Allison’s memoir is the birth of her daughter Lilly, with Dave remarkably present just months after his massive trauma and able to participate like a mostly regular father in the labor and delivery. The tale, one senses, is far from over for Allison, Dave and Lilly. They have chosen, as Allison puts it, “to strive toward a full recovery.” Dave’s epilogue expressing gratitude and determination augurs well, as does Allison’s assertion that “the greatest adventure of my life is the one we are living.”

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on May 4, 2018

Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience
by Allison Pataki

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2018
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0399591656
  • ISBN-13: 9780399591655