Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: The Long Awakening: A Memoir

The Long Awakening: A Memoir
By Lindsey O'Connor
Revell, 2014


On a crisp October day in 2002, Lindsey O'Connor woke from a 47-day medically induced coma. She heard her ecstatic husband's voice and saw his face as she emerged from the depths of unconsciousness. She was bewildered by the people around her who looked so overjoyed and were so thoroughly attentive and attuned to her every move. Then came the question: "Do you remember that you had a baby?"

Lindsey drifted in and out of consciousness again for weeks. When she finally and gradually surfaced permanently from her long submersion, she struggled to understand that the day her baby came into the world was the day she left it. Her awakening was the happy ending for her family and friends--the miracle they had been praying for--but it was just the beginning of Lindsey's long and frightening journey toward a new reality.

With visceral images and richly layered storytelling, Lindsey O'Connor vividly tells the poignant true story of the struggle to reenter her world and rebuild her identity. Underlying this life and death battle is a story of lost and found love, the effort to make sense of life-altering events, and the continuing search for self. This moving memoir paints a powerful picture of pain, beauty, and the unsurpassable gift of finally knowing who you are.

My thoughts

"The day our baby came into the world was the day I left. A day that began all smiles and excitement and anticipation and joy ended with running and panic and blood and tears. And then coma."

The Long Awakening is the true story of a life-threatening coma, a miraculous awakening, and the long quest to regain what was lost. Readers who have known someone with a brain injury or who has been in a coma will especially be drawn to this book, but I believe it's a story that anyone can relate to. Tighter writing would have moved the narrative along better, but I still enjoyed Lindsey's writing and was caught up emotionally in her story. So many elements come into play - finding oneself totally dependent on others, having to relearn the simplest things, questioning God, the effect of chronic illness on a spouse, making tough medical decisions, accepting a life that will never be the same. Lindsey's story touched me and I'd like to share a few quotes that made an impact.

Jacquelyn, struggling with her mother's crisis, thought of what it might be like to forget about God:  "In her mind she literally saw a dirt trail with hills in the distance and the trail forked into two distinct paths. Down one path was her life if she chose to abandon faith and abandon God. The other path was her life with God. And she realized, both paths had pain regardless. . . . And from her life at that moment in its seeming hopelessness, she saw nothing different on either path. . . . Lord, as hard as this is with you, I don't want to do it without you."

Seeing her baby after coming out of a coma, Lindsey reflects:  "I understand - this was my baby -  but I wonder when her mother's going to come get her."

Tim had patiently and faithfully read to Lindsey during her coma, and she later says:  "I'm so grateful that Tim believed and defended one piece of advice he'd been given: hearing is a sense that can remain after all others are gone. He'd been the sentry enforcing his order, for the two months I slept, that no one should say anything in my comatose presence that they would not say had I been awake."

Tim, trying to make a medical decision:  "God can save. God can create miracles out of things and this is an opportunity for God if He so chooses to do it. It's His opportunity for a miracle and for me to step in and take away that opportunity was not a choice for me."

And in the continual questioning, Lindsey finally realizes:  "I'd been looking for God in the fireworks and the feelings, and He'd been in the comfort, and in the peace in room 4273 and in questions, in community and their sacrifices, in the transcendence, all along, hiding in plain sight." I can't help but think how often I've found God "hiding in plain sight."

Anyone who has been associated with chronic illness or brain injury can relate to this story, but I recommend it to any reader looking for a true story of survival and recovery.

Lindsey O'Connor

Lindsey O'Connor is an author, a freelance journalist, and a speaker who has contributed to public radio's Weekend America,, the Rocky Mountain News, Writer's Digest, Guideposts, and others. She has reported internationally, is a former broadcaster, was a finalist for an Audie Award, and is a member of the Association of Independents in Radio and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She and her family live in Colorado.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds good. Thanks for your thoughts. May be a good one for my church book club.