My Stroke of Insight
by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.
My Stroke of Insight is the true story of Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. In the space of just a few hours, Taylor lost the abilities to walk, talk, read, write, and recall any of her past life. It took her eight years to recover completely, a miraculous feat she accomplished with the help of her caring mother. In her book, Taylor relates her stroke experience, describing in detail the symptoms of the actual stroke and illustrating the methods that helped her most in her recovery. The main goal of her book, however, is to share the insight she gained on the brain through her stroke and subsequent recovery.
The author chooses to tell her story in a humorous tone. She takes an optimistic view of events where others would see only the negative consequences. Interestingly, she is of the opinion that the stroke was the best thing that could have happened to her, giving her the opportunity to rewire her brain and discover the full potential of her right hemisphere.
Taylor certainly does an excellent job of explaining how to know when you are having a stroke, one of the goals of the second section of the book. She clearly tells the reader exactly how she felt while the stroke was occurring, from the pains she experienced in the beginning to the abstract state of mind she was in at the end. Her detailed account of that morning will help readers in case they or their loved ones experience a stroke in the future.
Chapters 2 and 3 cover some basic science of the brain that allows the reader to understand what goes on biologically during the stroke. Personally, I love science and enjoyed reading these two chapters. However, this information is not essential, and if you are not a science person and would like to skip this section, you can do so and still enjoy the rest of the book.
In her introduction, Taylor writes, “As a neuroanatomist, I must say that I learned as much about my brain and how it functions during that stroke, as I had in all my years of academia.” The last few chapters of the book, 15 through 20, are devoted to sharing Taylor’s discoveries. She explains how, by stepping into the right side of our brains, we can learn to more often exercise love and compassion and establish a general feeling of peace within ourselves. Too often, these feelings and emotions are pushed aside by the constant chatter of our left minds.
This last section of the book was a bit too long for me. Everything Taylor was saying was undoubtedly based on her own experience and quite possibly true, but I felt that she could have done this in fewer chapters. I would have preferred to read more about her life after the stroke.
This book is something I highly recommend everyone read at some point. In addition to being an inspiring story of a stroke survivor who was able to recover completely and regain all her faculties, it contains valuable information on strokes and how to recover from them. There are no inappropriate scenes or use of bad language, aside from one incident of a four-letter word, but the last three letters were replaced with symbols. I think both younger and more mature readers can enjoy My Stroke of Insight, although older readers might appreciate it more.