Meck, Su & de Vise, Daniel. ( 2014) I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 281 pages. ISBN: 9781451685817.
Reviewed by Kristina Flemming, Columbia University
(SPT) The events that happened in Su Meck’s life seem as if they were contrived as the plot of some drama filled film. Her initial accident and life thereafter is bewildering, especially when noting that she suffers from an unusual case of retrograde amnesia and she’s immediately thrust back into a world where her understanding of it is still very elementary. In Meck’s memoir, I Forgot to Remember, we see her frustration with life after her brain injury and her attempts to piece together everything she’s forgotten.
More than twenty years after a ceiling fan falls on Su Meck’s head, she writes about how she feels not being able to recall the first two and half decades of her life. Many of the events she describes are from secondary sources. Even though the memoir is primarily written in the author’s voice, other characters take over when they are quoted in the retelling of a story. This can be a bit confusing, but it’s definitely an interesting and different way to format a memoir. It’s structured in such a way that the readers feel like Meck interviewed her family members about her own life. Unable to recount it with any certainty, readers are able to feel the author’s frustration with never being able to know who she was and her personal beliefs about anything. This is a side of amnesia that I’ve never thought of. Of course, most people know that amnesia involves a loss of memory. However, I never included a person’s life goals as a part of his or her memory. It seems unimaginable to lose your closely held beliefs or to forget your aspirations completely.
Another major recurring theme throughout the memoir is the author’s dissatisfaction with her early premature release from the hospital. She consistently draws attention to discrepancies in the hospital records during her stay. Although the notes from the doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers show the breadth of work that go into recovering from a traumatic brain injury, they also show inconsistencies in her symptoms and the decision to let her leave the hospital early.
A person writing a memoir when they can’t remember their own life seems like an incredibly steep challenge. Through stories from friends and family as well as looking into medical documents from her hospital stay, Meck has assembled her life story. I Forgot to Remember is a heart wrenching and inspiring book that truly illustrates what it’s like to live with a traumatic brain injury.
Meck, Su & de Vise, Daniel. (2014) I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9781451685817.
Hardcover. 281 pages. Includes index and references.
Key words: retrograde amnesia, traumatic brain injury, memoir, healthcare