Left Neglected, written by the author of Still Alice, is a book you should consider checking out. It is the story of Sarah Nickerson and her traumatic brain injury.
If you know anything about Lisa Genova, the author, you’ll know she holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University, so it makes perfect sense that she writes books about people with brain injury, trauma, and dysfunction.
Sarah Nickerson is a successful career woman, working as the Vice President of Human Resources at Berkley Consulting in Boston. She is also mom to three kids and wife to Bob. Her life can be summed up in a word – busy. It’s also full, high-tess, and everything she wants it to be. Sarah likes her life. She loves her husband, although they don’t enjoy much time together, unless you count working from home on opposite ends of the couch, quality time. They have a good marriage despite their hectic lives.
Sarah has it all and enjoys it, except for the dreams that keep plaguing her. Having it all may be a little too much after all, but Sarah doesn’t get to decide before she’s in a major motor-vehicle accident. She’s alive, but left with a condition called Left Neglect.
Left doesn’t exist to her. She cannot move her left side, see her left side, read words on the left side. The left no longer exists. Now, she’s a smart woman, even without her left. She knows, rationally, that there’s a left side to everything, but her brain stops thinking about left. The left doesn’t come naturally anymore. She only eats what is on the right side of her plate, she has to learn to walk with the help of a walker and then a cane, and she drools out of the left side of her mouth sometimes.
Because her left has ceased to exist, it also can’t be trusted. At times, her left arm will move haphazardly causing more than a few awkward moments. Not only does she have no control of her left, but she doesn’t realize it exists.
Sarah can no longer go to work or care for her children, so her estranged mother comes to the rescue and moves in with them.
Left Neglect is an intriguing story from a “scientific” (not sure if that’s the best word) standpoint. Left Neglect is real. It has happened. It can happen following traumatic damage to the right side of the brain. It’s crazy to think about and difficult to imagine experiencing.
The author often puts us inside Sarah’s head. We’re privy to her self-talk, the stream of constant dialogue that runs through herbrain. It helps us understand what she’s going through, what she’s feeling, and what her world looks like. Without getting into Sarah’s head, we would only see the physical manifestations of this brain injury. So, while I appreciate the inner dialogue, it does get a smidgen slow. Sometimes it’s tough being alone for an extended period of time with my own thoughts and that’s what it’s like with Sarah’s too.
I love how this author writes about such different, yet very real, topics. It’s like she’s stretching us and helping to understand life for people who endure tragedies like brain injuries and Alzheimer’s Disease.
It’s good for me to read books like this. I think it helps me understand, just a bit, people who deal with disabilities. It tells their side of the story, a side they’re often not able to communicate on their own.
Overall, I enjoyed this book on a very different topic. It’s fiction that can and has been real life for an unfortunate few. This is ultimately a story of redemption. Sarah gets her life back, only it looks very different. She’s reunited with her estranged mother and they forge a close relationship built on need, the need for help and the need to make up for past mistakes.
If you’re looking for something different to read, I’d definitely recommend it.