Book 49 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it.
I Forgot to Remember: a Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck
Summary (via Goodreads)
In 1988 Su Meck was twenty-two and married with two children when a ceiling fan in her kitchen fell and struck her on the head, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury that erased all her memories of her life up to that point. Although her body healed rapidly, her memories never returned.Yet after just three weeks in the hospital, Su was released and once again charged with the care of two toddlers and a busy household. Adrift in a world about which she understood almost nothing, Su became an adept mimic, gradually creating routines and rituals that sheltered her and her family, however narrowly, from the near-daily threat of disaster, or so she thought. Though Su would eventually relearn to tie her shoes, cook a meal, and read and write, nearly twenty years would pass before a series of personally devastating events shattered the normal life she had worked so hard to build, and she realized that she would have to grow up all over again.
It was interesting to consider 'nature vs nurture' when considering personality. When Su lost her memory, she had some other significant characteristic changes as well. I can understand some of the changes (such as no longer wanting to drink since she's already dealing with constant impairment), but another example ('before accident' Su loved the water and even worked as a lifeguard when she was younger but 'after accident' Su is terrified of water and won't go in) truly baffled me since her accident didn't involve water at all. The brain is a mystery.
The fact that Su has never regained any of her memories from prior to the accident, leaving her to rely solely on other people's information to determine who she was, was fascinating to think about. If I were in her shoes, I'd be screwed; I have many internal thoughts and feelings that nobody else would know or remember.
I didn't mind the format because I love medical stuff and don't need a lot of extra words but it could read as basic or bare to some. There was quite a bit of 'this person said this' and 'this person wrote that', and many questions were asked but never fully answered (understandable given her limitations but still frustrating to someone looking to flesh out the whole story).
As with all memoirs, I don't want to judge the people themselves. However, I was very surprised at the lack of concern or follow up Su and her family showed for many years. She was frequently (like, for weeks at a time) alone with the kids, they didn't tell people about her condition, and there were times Jim sounded downright abusive (based on the way he was portrayed throughout the book). They even moved to Cairo for a few years - how disorientating and isolating would that be? I'm glad her kids turned out okay because some of those situations sounded downright scary.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Babies are coddled, nursed, and coaxed into childhood. Not me. I was born into a life already in progress."
"The old Su may have longed to finish school, to return to work, to seize all the dreams she had left at the door to motherhood. As for me, this was the only life I had ever known. For years, I had nothing to long for. I had no neglected hobbies, no dormant talents, and no dreams that I knew about."