This short, gripping book describes Taylor's massive stroke, a burst blood vessel in the left side of her brain. Ironically, she was at 37, a neuroanatomist at Harvard, well versed in the anatomy and function of the brain. Her knowledge allowed her to understand from the inside her rapid loss of mental function and, with treatment, her very long (some eight years) recovery to health and, once again, professional activity.

Taylor presents an overview of brain structure and function, emphasizing the different roles of the left and right hemispheres. Since her left hemisphere was damaged and needed to be "rebuilt," in her term (learning to read, to dress herself, to drive a car, to think), she had plenty of time to explore her right brain and understand its wisdom and peace. This is her insight: our culture prizes the admirable but often frantic work of the left brain, putting us in stressed, competitive modes of thinking and acting, often aggressive and argumentative. "My stroke of insight," she writes, "is that at the core of my right hemisphere consciousness is a character that is directly connected to my feeling of deep inner peace" (page 133). Both sides of the brain have their strengths and uses, but she especially enjoys the spiritual and humane aspects of the right brain and, by extension, invites her readers to consider these resources for themselves and for the larger society.

Taylor credits her mother's care for much of the recovery, although it is clear between the lines that Taylor herself worked hard with various therapists (speech, massage, acupuncture). Despite the severity of her injury and the surgery, she appears to have returned to professional work at a high level, fully recovered and very grateful.


This is a fascinating first-person account of a medical catastrophe, its treatment, and the very long rehabilitation, all carefully studied by an expert on brain structure and function. Taylor writes clearly and succinctly, giving details of her loss of language, her trials with a child's puzzle of twelve pieces, her need for sleep and rest, and her faith in the plasticity of the brain that allows for her recovery.
Taylor is, once again, a teacher of anatomy and active as a national spokesperson for the mentally ill at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Brain Bank).

In an appendix, Taylor lists "Forty Things I Need the Most," a manifesto of sorts for humane care of stroke patients. Two examples: No. 17, "Ask me multiple-choice questions. Avoid Yes/No questions" and No. 32, "Focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot do." Throughout, Taylor celebrates the intricacy and wonders of the human body, espcially the mind and, at the end, suggests that we consider lifestsyles that foster peace, unity, and joy.


Some 20 drawings make clear various areas of the brain and a photograph shows the nine-inch scar left by the surgery that removed a golf-ball sized blood clot in her brain. Well worth watching (about 20 min): An online video of the author dramatically discussing what her stroke felt like:


Viking (Penguin Group)

Place Published

New York



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