Summary and book reviews of Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki

Beauty in the Broken Places

A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience

by Allison Pataki

Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki X
Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki
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  • Published:
    May 2018, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book

Book Summary

A deeply moving memoir about a young couple whose lives were changed in the blink of an eye, and the love that helped them rewrite their future.

Five months pregnant, on a flight to their "babymoon," Allison Pataki turned to her husband when he asked if his eye looked strange and watched him suddenly lose consciousness. After an emergency landing, she discovered that Dave - a healthy thirty-year-old athlete and surgical resident - had suffered a rare and life-threatening stroke. Next thing Allison knew, she was sitting alone in the ER in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting to hear if her husband would survive the night.

When Dave woke up, he could not carry memories from hour to hour, much less from one day to the next. Allison had lost the Dave she knew and loved when he lost consciousness on the plane. Within a few months, she found herself caring for both a newborn and a sick husband, struggling with the fear of what was to come.

As a way to make sense of the pain and chaos of their new reality, Allison started to write daily letters to Dave. Not only would she work to make sense of the unfathomable experiences unfolding around her, but her letters would provide Dave with the memories he could not make on his own. She was writing to preserve their past, protect their present, and fight for their future. Those letters became the foundation of this beautiful, intimate memoir. And in the process, she fell in love with her husband all over again.

This is a manifesto for living, an ultimately uplifting story about the transformative power of faith and resilience. It's a tale of a man's turbulent road to recovery, the shifting nature of marriage, and the struggle of loving through pain and finding joy in the broken places.

Chapter 1

"Is there a medical professional aboard the plane?"

I think all young doctors live with a certain amount of trepidation about hearing this question. What a terrible summons to get at 35,000 feet in the air, removed from all medical equipment or access to healthcare facilities or colleagues to consult. The question is equal parts known and unknown: you know why you are being called, and yet you have no idea to what. What if you are a throat specialist being called to deliver a premature baby, or a dermatologist being called to a life-threatening heart attack?

But on June 9, as we prepared for our flight to Seattle, Dave and I were not concerned with anything like that. It was a glorious early-summer day. June really is the best time of year in Chicago. After our long, notoriously difficult winters—the vestiges of which can remain parked like a gloomy, uninvited guest through May—the city and all of its inhabitants come surging back to life.

It was the ideal sort of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The title of this book, Beauty in the Broken Places, speaks to brokenness and pain, but also to the beauty that can be found in places of suffering and hardship. It is inspired by the Ernest Hemingway quotation that is the book's epigraph: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places." Discuss this quotation and examine how both these elements—beauty and brokenness—are at play in this story.
  2. Allison speaks extensively about her support system and how she had to learn to rely on family and friends in a way she never had before. Discuss the importance of "the tribe" in getting through life's hardships. Which figures in this story struck you as particularly poignant figures of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

[Pataki] has good control of her story lines in this memoir, and successfully recreates the swirl of emotions she felt after Dave's stroke and the birth of their daughter, Lilly. However, she doesn't completely avoid clichés: there are a few instances each of "ups and downs" and "new normal." I also found her descriptions of Dave to be implausibly glowing. What I most appreciated, though, was Pataki's insistence that she was never especially strong or brave; she just dealt with these circumstances because she had no choice. Hers is a relatable story of surviving the worst life can throw at you and finding the beauty in it.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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Media Reviews

People
An inspiring, intimate memoir about faith, resilience and the tenacity of love.

USA Today
Bold and commendable . . . A strength of this memoir is [Allison Pataki’s] scrupulous honesty.

Kirkus Reviews
[A] heartfelt account of dedication and devotion.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Interspersing details of Levy's ongoing progress toward recovery, Pataki delivers an insightful look at how two people faced a life-altering test as a team 'fighting to make the dreams of our future possible.'

Author Blurb Marcia Gay Harden, Academy Award–winning actress and author of The Seasons of My Mother
A beautifully woven, suspenseful love story with a stunning victory, reminding us of the resilience of the human spirit, and that anything is possible with a loving tribe.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Types of Stroke

Most strokes are caused by blockages in blood vessels, either directly in the brain or traveling from elsewhere in the body to the brain; these are referred to as ischemic strokes. A minority are caused by ruptured blood vessels (hemorrhagic strokes). It is important for doctors to identify the specific type of stroke that a patient has suffered before deciding on a treatment course as the treatment for ischemic strokes generally focuses on thinning the blood which would make a hemorrhagic stroke worse.

All strokes cut off blood supply and thus oxygen to the brain, causing some brain cells to die and leading to memory loss and numbness. Confusion, difficulty speaking, and partial paralysis can also result. The "FAST test" is a quick way ...

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