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On the morning of July 29, 1995, Robert McCrum -- 42 years old, just two weeks newly married, at the top of his profession as one of British publishing's most admired editors, in what he thought was the full bloom of health -- awoke to find himself totally paralyzed on the left side, the victim of a stroke brought on by a massive cerebral hemorrhage. After a nightmarish day struggling to reach a phone, he finally summoned help. In the weeks to come, he would have to face the reality that his life had irrevocably changed and that medical science, maddeningly, could neither pinpoint the cause of the stroke nor offer any guarantee of recovery. What ensued was a battle beset by frustration and depression but equally marked by small victories, the help of dedicated physicians and therapists, and, first and last, the support of his new wife, whose love proved equal to their dismaying circumstances.
My Year Off is an eloquent story of hope, written with the sort of candor and detail that the author believes has been missing in the literature of strokes up to this time. It is as well a grown-up love story of the most realistic -- and hence, inspiring -- kind.
Robert McCrum is the associate editor of The Observer and lives in London with his wife, Sarah Lyall. His books include the bestselling The Story of English, My Year Off, Wodehouse: A Life, and Globish.