Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a really beautiful book. I will admit to googling diving bell to understand Bauby's reference (and it makes complete sense).

Jean-Dominique Bauby dictated this book in his final year of life, through blinks, a truly amazing feat. Bauby experienced a serious stroke that left him unable to speak or move any part of his body, save his left eyelid, a condition known as locked-in syndrome.

While this type of serious tragedy would defeat almost anyone, Bauby used his time to think and reflect on his life. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a memoir of sorts, written with grace, a keen eye for detail, and lots of wry whit. Though Bauby communicates how frustrating it is to be so completely immobile, he does not spend any time pitying himself. Rather, he reflects on how it was before the stroke - how it was to spend time with his girlfriend, small moments with his children and friends. He relates how these memories shape his time after the stroke, how he thinks differently.

This book awakens a sort of gratitude for life as it is. It can be so easy to take our lives for granted, especially in The United States, where a large majority of the population lives so comfortably, complaining about wireless services or a longer than normal line at the store. Although this is in no way comparable to Bauby's experience, I remember how it felt when my left hip went out during the last few weeks I was pregnant. While it was uncomfortable to walk before this happened, just taking a step was excruciating. I thought, "How lucky I was to be able to walk normally, and how I wish I could now."

It is that sort of thought that you leave with. Not only how blessed (dare I use such a loaded term?) to have our working bodies, but more aware of the small details and wonders that surround us. A favorite meal. A sip of tea. The pleasure of holding a book. A long kiss. The ability to say, "I love you." The feel of grass beneath your feet in the summer.

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