Who would you be if you could start again?
Title: Me Again
Author: Keith Cronin
Miracles can be damned inconvenient. That’s what thirty-four-year-old stroke victim Jonathan Hooper learns when he wakes up after spending six years in a coma. Everyone calls Jonathan’s recovery a “miracle,” but since nobody had expected him to recover, his sudden awakening becomes an awkward intrusion on the lives of his family and friends. To make matters worse, Jonathan doesn’t even recognize these people. The stroke has wiped away most of Jonathan’s memory, while the coma has withered his body. In short, Jonathan’s not the man he used to be – whoeverthat was.
The only bright spot for Jonathan is Rebecca Chase, a young woman he meets in the hospital’s long-term recovery unit. A stroke has drastically changed her personality, making her a stranger to her husband. Gone is the vivacious trophy wife, replaced by a shy, awkward woman with a knack for saying exactly the wrong thing.
They don’t fit in. And they’ll never be the same. But now they’ve got to decide what matters most: who they were, or who they can become?
A steadily accelerating story exploring the irony, humor, and opportunity that can accompany personal calamity, Me Again follows the intertwined paths of two people forced to start over in life: one looking for his place in a world that has moved on without him, the other struggling to navigate a relationship with a man who wishes she were someone else.
Oddly enough the thing that drew me to this novel was Keith Cronin’s biography. I was truly interested to see what kind of story came from a rock drummer who also happened to provide the title for Water for Elephants. And true to form, this very interesting author has produced a whole hearted, thought- provoking, and well researched novel, which gripped me from the very first sentence. I would recommend reading this book solely based on that opening line, actually.
This charmingly written work of fiction, from which a portion of sales goes to stroke research, so realistically details the recovery journey of a stroke victim, I initially thought it had to be a memoir. I was impressed with Cronin’s writing of the first few days of Jonathan’s wakefulness as he embarks on his second chance at life, which is really the motif upon which this novel is hinged. Coming out of a six year coma, Jonathon quickly realizes he is not the person his family expects him to be, this stroke he has experienced has essentially erased his former self.
As Jonathan works his way through grueling physiotherapy, he befriends fellow stroke victim Rebecca and they develop a quick friendship based on the fact that their new selves don’t seem to be comfortable trying to step back into their old lives. As they share their frustrations with each other the reader is deftly guided through their moral dilemmas; do they try to slip back into a skin that no longer fits in order to placate their loved ones, or do they accept themselves as they are now and somewhat selfishly move forward on a new path as this new person they have become.
Through these two characters, Cronin presents his readers with an interesting quandary of self-discovery. Who are we really? How much are we, as individuals, defined by our jobs, families and significant others? And how much of our true selves do we get to share with the world? The way these characters paths play out demonstrate how one event, a single fork in the road, can drastically change who we are and how we are perceived by those we love.
Me Again is an excellent read, it has humour, wit, drama, scandal, mystery, a love story and an excellently resolved ending. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and although the subject matter is completely foreign the underlying message is universal and this novel definitely inspired some introspection.