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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Before, Afdre, and After: (My stroke...oh what fun) is a nonfiction memoir written by Maureen Twomey. The author was a professional copywriter who had given up freelancing for a permanent position with an advertising firm in San Francisco when she was in her early 30s. She loved her new apartment and its views of the Golden Gate Bridge, as did her cat, Salinger. One day at work, she experienced a strange light-headedness and an intermittent flashing in one of her eyes. As her symptoms worsened, her coworkers called for an ambulance. She underwent a CAT scan and other tests, but a stroke was ruled out, and she was released. The next morning, her father drove her back to the hospital. Twomey had not only suffered a stroke, but a major one, which, because of its rarity and location, had not been detected the day before. The bleeding led to massive inflammation in her brain and a portion of her skull was removed and preserved so the surgeons could work on saving her. One doctor thought the damage was not only profound but irreversible, but the author knew it was only a matter of time until she would be writing a book on the experience.
Maureen Twomey’s nonfiction memoir, Before, Afdre, and After: (My stroke...oh what fun), is written by a wryly funny and brutally honest survivor whose message grabs the reader on the first page and doesn’t let go until she finally means it when she says, “the end.” Just don’t believe her the first dozen or so times that she does say it and expect to feel a little sad when her story is actually over. I marveled as I read through the progress reports that appear throughout the text and watched as Twomey’s handwriting was transformed from shaky and unwieldy scratchings into an elegant Southpaw backhand. I was shaken by the severity of her initial injuries and found it hard to imagine lying there in the hospital unable to read, and I found myself cheering as the author took those first steps, uttered those first words and began to write once again. This is a most impressive and moving memoir about a catastrophic injury and the way one brilliant, funny and very resilient person climbed her way back towards a full recovery with lots of help from the friends and family who were with her every step of the way. Before, Afdre, and After: (My stroke...oh what fun) is most highly recommended.