2 out of 4 stars
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The Phoenix Rising - A True Story of Survival by Helen Ross Lee is a memoir that chronicles the author's journey recovering from a traumatic brain injury that she sustained after a hang gliding accident. In it, the author describes her life thoroughly in the context of how her injury affected her everyday life, as well as her single-minded focus on recovering the function she'd had before the accident, whatever the cost.
Unfortunately, this is a book that gets very bogged down with mundane information, from the specifics of the author's many failed relationships to every potential benefit promised by the alternative treatments she pursued. I even found a section that was copy-pasted verbatim from the blog of a brain training application she used! Too much of the narrative is bogged down with logistical details that just aren't interesting, and the book could've used a few more drafts, which is also shown by the book's many grammatical errors.
Personally, I also found the author's behavior throughout the book a bit maddening. She was injured while trying to perform a very challenging hang gliding maneuver without sufficient expertise, and yet she pins the blame on the people who let her attempt it, rather than acknowledging her own role in the situation. She gleefully praises herself for keying a stranger's car when they took a parking spot her parents had claimed, and when she writes about going to a funeral, the only thing she describes is a conversation with the deceased's brother about her own treatment. I can't say if this accurately represents how she lives her life, but the writing makes the author seem so self-absorbed that I found this book hard to enjoy.
Ultimately, though, there are some genuinely sweet and interesting parts of this book. I liked reading about the author's relationship with her family, and her determination to regain 'normal' function, mentally and physically, is admirable. However, these moments are presented in a rather disjointed way, as the author tends to skip around dramatically between subjects. At one point, she goes from describing her night shift work to seeing a kangaroo be hit by a car to a discussion about tech support scams, and I had a hard time keeping up.
Overall, I rate it 2 out of 4 stars. I wish it had undergone several more drafts to let the author's experiences really shine. For people who are just looking for a success story about the great progress that someone with a traumatic brain injury can attain, this is a good choice. Unfortunately, without a pre-existing interest in traumatic brain injuries, I don't think I can recommend this book to fans of memoirs at large.
The Phoenix Rising - A True Story of Survival
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