The title of Ricky Monahan Brown’s memoir gets straight to the point: Stroke. The elaboration of the title entices the reader in even more – “A 5% chance of survival.” Together with the blurb the reader is pulled in expecting an emotive journey through a cataclysmic event in one man’s life and the journey of his against-all-odds survival.
It is something of a disappointment then when the opening pages focus more on Brown’s sex life which seems somewhat out-of-keeping with the tender nature of the subject matter he will go on to explore, although Brown does concede in the closing acknowledgements of this biographical tale that: “This is, after all, a love story.” This love story is weaved through chapters of graphic medical information, memories of hospital life and the characters he met there, as well as a final couple of chapters which move the reader on at a rapid and unexpected pace.
This mismatch of information and disconnect between styles is perhaps a representation of Brown’s remarkable recovery in itself but it is difficult to maintain interest in what is a fascinating tale when jumping so readily from one thing to another.
It is when Brown talks about his intimate thoughts and feelings when processing the trauma he has suffered when this book really grips the reader. Describing the all-encompassing fear he felt when lying alone with his thoughts in his hospital ward is particularly profound: “I do, however, retain a sensation of the terror that the nights would bring when the nurses would withdraw to chatter at their stations and the only figures by my bed were the vivid regrets of years past and the dark, long-fingered threats of the future reaching back into the present.”
Writing is a wonderful therapeutic tool and it must have felt so for Brown to pen his own thoughts on what must have been an incredibly difficult time. It is just a shame it is often hidden under unnecessary side stories.