Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope

Book Review

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly

I knew this book was coming out. I had followed the story of Gabrielle Giffords being shot and her recovery through the stories presented by the media. But with their own book now available, I was curious to learn what wasn't being shared with the media or what the media wasn't sharing with the public.

I was curious.

I'm also interested in just about all things "astronaut". Mark Kelly is an astronaut. Or he was until he retired last year.

I wanted to know more.

Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope

Right from the start, it is obvious that this is told in Mark's voice. He gives us his perspective as a husband, caregiver, and astronaut. He assures us at the end that each paragraph, each chapter, each story is evaluated and approved by Gabby, but only the last chapter is written by her, in her new voice. And that voice comes through crystal clear, after all Mark has already told us throughout the rest of the book.

We are given snapshots of both of their lives, both singly and as a couple, but these are not presented chronologically. These snippets are collected by a loose sense of theme. Often I could not determine how a particular story fit into the chapter, but somehow it all works anyways. It all comes together in a coherent story.

Pieces of both his history and her history are scattered throughout. Woven in amongst these, Mark tells of the trials and tribulations of Gabby's recovery from her bullet wound. It is evident throughout that brain injuries are different than what most of us experience when either recovering or caregiving. It is also clear that Gabby's survival and recovery of her motor skills and personality is very much an outlier. Most such brain injuries result in far more limited recovery. Gabby is beyond lucky. Gabby is extraordinary.

I appreciated Mark's candid take on the details of her condition throughout, both the struggles and successes. It must not have been easy to share some intimate details and some very heartfelt moments. This is the kind of genuine, true story I was hoping for. I wasn't disappointed.

It is only late in the book, near the end, that Mark tells us that she wants to finish the Congress on Your Corner event, the event she was attending when she got shot. I read this section right after I heard in the news that she was going to do just that. This was right around the one year anniversary of the shooting. I only wished I had been another fifty pages or so further along when I heard this news. She did, in fact, finish the event, but in a more limited way, with some of the people attending the original event being invited back to speak directly with Gabby. The coverage of the latter event was brief and limited. I suspect that her current condition necessitated it.

Shortly after I heard about the completion of the Congress on Your Corner even, she announced her resignation. I was both saddened and glad to hear this. I had often wondered about the lack of representation her constituents were receiving as a result of her injury and recovery. I don't begrudge her the time she needs to recover. I just wonder what happens to those voters' views and opinions in the mean time. In the book, she and Mark tell us that she wants to focus on getting better. It is evident that she is still very interested in serving her constituents, but that she needs more time to advance her recovery. And she should have it.

Shortly after finishing the book, I saw a headline in the news that her former aide is planning to run for her spot. He was wounded in the shooting, once in the face and once in the leg. It is not surprising that he has the full endorsement of Gabrielle Giffords herself.

This book is full of good story nuggets, but the writing isn't what I would consider fantastic. I don't know Mark or Gabrielle, but I can imagine Mark speaking the way the book is written. It seems to fit, and therefore, it works.

If you have heard about Gabrielle's story and her recovery, you will likely find this an interesting read. Enjoy!

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