Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"You Disappear" a book review

For a bit of thematic synchronicity, this review is here but not here. If you scroll over and highlight the blocks of text the review will appear. Not my original intent, but that's how it worked out and at the suggestion of friends, I'm keeping it.

Christian Jungersen set out to overcome a number of literary challenges that few other authors would have attempted, and with You Disappear he deftly handles them them brilliantly. First, he writes a book from the perspective of a convincing female main character. Second, he writes on a suite of subjects that require an intimate understanding of broad range of current research, namely brain trauma and it's many psychological aberrations, which is saturated in enigmas with feintly understood ramifications. Third, from the bowels of deeply conflicting social, medical, and political issues he must wrest forth a lively and entertaining story. In each instance he has unequivocally succeeded.

I have read many accounts of brain injury recovery in the last twenty-five years since my own severe brain trauma. The accounts of the slow and heartbreaking recovery from brain injury are at best tedious and draining to read. Jungersen has crafted a story that is a page turner. Among the plodding metronome of brain injury recovery he has woven a symphony of plot twists that are as unexpected as they are believable. Quiet moments of beauty and gentle humor mix with the character Mia's discovery of what it means to be brain injured. Her fugues of hope and despair culminate in a resolution that is as satisfying and complete as it is unexpected.

There are many villains and many heroes and they exchange places within each character. Each of the main characters is a fully realized believable person that changes and grows throughout the story. So many other fictional stories of brain trauma focus on long term memory loss and little else, those are easy stories to write, even though such amnesia is incredibly rare. Jungersen, on the other hand, tells an engaging story that embraces the full spectrum of brain injury symptomatic sequelae by unpeeling the onion of mystery and misconception, rather than just listing the symptoms like ingredients. I found myself crying, "Yes, yes, yes! That's exactly it!"

Finally, as a reader with letters in literature, I was also enthralled by the sophistication the work demonstrated in its employment of a narrator that may be, or may not be, reliable. The confidence the reader places in the narrative vehicle can subtly alter the interpretation of the events as they are related. The mind wants to place black hats on the bad guys and white hats on the good guys, but such verity is elusive. The story, like brain injury itself, is different for every individual.

Jungersen has set a new standard for excellence.

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