Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki
Published by Random House ISBN 9780399591655 (Publication date- May 1st)
Hardcover, $26, 244 pages
Allison Pataki's moving memoir Beauty in the Broken Places opens with a foreward by Lee Woodruff, a writer whose journalist husband Bob Woodruff suffered a traumatic brain injury covering the Iraq War. Woodruff has experienced what Pataki is about to recount in her book- her life changing in an instant.
Dave and Allison are heading out for a lovely Hawaiian vacation four months before Allison is set to give birth to their baby. Dave has a grueling schedule as a third year resident, and Alli is preparing for the publication of her new historical novel.
While in flight, Dave turns to Allison and says he can't see out of his right eye. She sees that his pupil is severely dialated, and Dave has a stroke right there on the plane. Three medical professionals assist Dave, and the pilot lands the plane in Fargo, ND where Dave is rushed to a hospital.
Allison takes us on the frightening whirlwind of calling his parents, brothers and then her family. She spends the night alone watching as her strong, vibrant husband lies hooked up to machines keeping him alive, praying he will live.
Dave has suffered a severe stroke, and his road to recovery will be long and difficult. In addition to his physical impairments (she has to feed him, shave him, he has to learn to walk), he has short term memory loss.
He goes from a long stay at the hospital to a rehabilitation home, and finally home to the new apartment they had rented for when the baby came. Allison's family and friends were there for her, unpacking for her, shopping, and most importantly, praying for and with her, but most of the responsibility for helping Dave rests on her shoulders.
Allison's strong faith, a touchstone for her since childhood, plays a large role in the book. Her faith guides her, and when she sends out an email asking people to pray for her, she can feel the strength that those prayers gave her and Dave.
She also wrote a series of letters titled "Dear Dave" to her husband, detailing everything that was happening and everything that she was feeling. As a writer, this was how she coped.
When their baby Lilly is born, now Allison has to take care of Lilly and Dave. The strain is incredible, and Allison takes the reader along with her on this difficult journey. Her feelings of being overwhelmed leap off the page.
Allison also takes the reader through her and Dave's courtship in college, and they were only married for eighteen months when they were tested by Dave's stroke. It takes a strong, loving relationship to make it through such a trial.
One thing that I found particularly relatable- Allison said she always felt so lucky in her life, that she was waiting for the shoe to drop. I think many people probably feel that way.
I read Beauty in the Broken Places through teary eyes for much of the first few chapters. It is hard not to feel her fear and pain. Pataki is a wonderful writer, and after reading this emotional story of the resilience of the human spirit, I will be looking to read her fiction next.
Allison Pataki's website is here.