One Hundred Names For Love Review

REVIEW by Radha Jill Richmond-Covey


One Hundred Names For Love  by Diane Ackerman

You must read One Hundred Names for Love

if you love words
if you are fascinated by the brain
if you want to know how strokes effect a person – physically, functionally, emotionally & what it really takes to recover
if you want to see the power of love at work in an actual stroke case
if you love reading authentic writing about the honing and galvanizing effect of serious illness on marital love

By the end of this memoir I did not want to lose my relationship with Diane Ackerman who had become my sister, my friend, my mentor.

We are brought along as Diane first recognizes that Paul is having a stroke, then, from his later descriptions, Paul’s actual experiences while having the stroke.  We are right there moment by moment.  Diane, an exquisite writer, weaves the story moving us from the stroke into their earlier life together. She shares the intricacies of their connection and lives and then returns to the stroke: to its impact on the brain causing Global Aphasia; to the history of knowledge about the area of the brain effected (Brocca’s); back  to Paul’s specific experience and on to Diane’s emotional experience absorbing this new reality.

We follow Paul’s recovery and Diane’s perseverance in figuring out just what his recovery is going to require.  Not cookie cutter prescriptions but carefully crafted regimens that fit Paul; gently but firmly insisting first that he speak, later that he engage in dialogue with Diane (and even later with others).  Eventually, he is able to dictate slowly to Diane his stroke experience and yet later, painstakingly, edit his writings.  He journeyed from only being able to say the single word “Mem, mem, mem,” to ordering in a restaurant, to writing again.

We become keenly aware of how complex language is –so much we take for granted – having a thought, finding the words to communicate that thought, speaking the words, dialoguing with others so that if they don’t understand the thought, we can find more words to say what we mean.

We are introduced to new knowledge regarding the plasticity of the brain.  “….brains can adapt and grow, forge new neural pathways, redirect signals and sometimes even mint a handful of fresh neurons unless damaged beyond growth or repair….Throughout our lives…the brain creates connections or revives old pathways, neurons grow new twigs along their branches and some of the branches themselves become stronger!  A brain can rewire itself.”

The thing is, in order to accomplish this rewiring after damage has occurred, it takes enormous focus, effort and perseverance.  Not everyone has the desire, the emotional and environmental resources, or the stamina to do this.  Paul West and Diane Ackerman show us what such industry can accomplish.  They inspire us to meet whatever challenges we might be facing to reinvent ourselves, and we are made richer by their story.