Review of a stunning memoir

The Long Awakening


Imagine waking up after 47 days in a coma, not realizing that the summer had passed or that you’d had a baby. This is what happened to Lindsey O’Connor, a mother of four who gave birth to her fifth baby – a planned later-in-life pregnancy – then suddenly crashed and nearly bled out, her brain deprived of life-giving oxygen. Her doctors induced a coma to allow her brain time and space to heal, but the extent of damage she suffered had no one knew. The Long Awakening is the gripping and moving story of her slow emergence out of the space between life and death as she hovered just below the surface, longing to connect but unable to do so.

But a miracle occurred, and though her family thought one tortuous night that she would die, she slowly came back to life. But she, asleep, missed the miracle. The thousands who prayed; the hundreds who brought around meals and cared for children and lent support: they witnessed it. But she, its focus, felt outside. Yet she knew her awakening was inexplicable and miraculous, so how could she even voice these feelings?

And who was she now, having been so deconditioned that she couldn’t even stand up on her tip toes or breathe on her own? How could she care for her children? Love her husband? Bond with her baby, whose first bath and first feeds she missed? Who was she in terms of her career? As she mused, “I used to be a writer… Now I cannot even read. Those days are over, I thought, and lay thinking of who’d I been, wondering who I was now.”

The road to recovery has been slow and long, but Lindsey has determined to “play the hand we’re dealt.” She writes lyrically, raising profound issues of identity, family and community, faith, mother/child bonding, and end-of-life medical ethics. Using her training in crafting journalistic narrative, she weaves together the pieces of those 47 days in the coma and the 107 days in hospital. I only wish she would have been more forthcoming with her faith; strikingly absent is the present of Jesus (but not God), although she calls herself “one who loves God fiercely.” Perhaps being a mainstream journalist in America made her reticent to enter the fray of faith-related discussions, which Stateside can turn tribal.

One to read and ponder, especially in a book-club setting, for the issues the book raises are manifold. A reminder to us all to treasure the moments we’re given.

(published by Revell, ISBN 978-0800723170)

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