3 out of 4 stars
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At the age of twenty-two, Elise isn’t too worried when she receives word that her father, Ralph Humphries, has been in a car accident. Elise figures he must have only had a “fender bender.” However, she soon learns that her father’s accident was actually the result of a debilitating stroke. Elise is determined to see that her father gets the proper treatment for recovery, but she’s in for a long, grueling fight with the nation’s health care system. Her experience is chronicled in her memoir, His Name is Ralph.
In this rather simple but passionate narrative, author Elise Tanory explains the medical, financial, and sometimes legal struggle she tackles on behalf of her father. Emotion and spirit resonates in her writing style. Even the memoir’s chapters have ironic or poignant titles that effectively convey the author’s tone, such as “Welcome to Paralysis” and “Open Your Eyes, Daddy; It’s Me.”
Yet, even in light of the health care battle the author faces with her father, he isn’t merely portrayed as a “patient who had a stroke.” His daughter takes time to paint a full picture of him as a man, with strengths, weaknesses, personality, and a reputation. The author also describes her familial upbringing and the adversity she deals with in the years preceding her father’s health crisis. Not only does this memoir serve as a personal account, but it gives commentary on a system affecting millions of Americans, and it also contains advice for the loved ones of stroke victims.
In addition to her father’s ordeal, the author relates her experiences at her various jobs, on her volunteering missions, and in her social life. I could see the correlation between her studies in pharmacology, her work with disabled children, and the trials she goes through with her father. However, I didn’t see how some of her other information has direct relevance to the memoir’s message, such as the accounts about a few of her past romantic relationships. The author does make a point of mentioning the memoir’s different threads in the end. Still, a couple of those threads could have been explained a bit more to show specifically how they tie together.
In her story, the author is intentional about switching back and forth between later and more recent events. However, there are some places where the timeline of events becomes somewhat unclear. There’s also some incorrect tense usage, dialogue between speakers that should have been split into separate paragraphs, and a number of minor punctuation errors throughout the book.
Nevertheless, despite its flaws, this is a raw, heartfelt, human story of devastation, determination, and love—a story that can open many eyes. Therefore, I give His Name is Ralph a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. I’d recommend it to readers who can handle memoirs with mature content, particularly those with an interest or concerns regarding the health care system in the United States.
His Name is Ralph
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