Friday, July 06, 2007

Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson

Mike May was blinded by a chemical explosion in his family's garage when he was three. He almost died and was in the hospital for months. Not the shrinking type and supported by his mother, he learned to lead an almost typical boy's life of climbing trees, playing sports, and, when old enough, dating girls. The title Crashing Through refers to the risks he took to ski downhill at record speeds. He was known for dangerous behavior. He even tried to drive a car once, just to say he had.

When May was 46, an ophthalmologist in San Francisco told him that stem-cell and cornea transplants might restore his vision in his one remaining eye. Being a semi-famous advocate for the blind, he was uncertain whether he wanted to see. He had done so well without sight, and there were many risks involved with the surgery and the drugs he would have to take to avoid tissue rejection. After months of debate, he decided that to be true to his usually bold spirit to have the surgery.

In Crashing Through, Kurson tells about May's initial year of sight. As a reader, I sometimes thought the author included too much detail about May's experiences, especially his intimate relations, but I was fascinated. When the bandages were removed from his eyes, May had color vision and the ability to follow motion immediately. He could even catch a ball thrown by his son. Identifying images and faces was, however, difficult. The field of vision was crowded with shapes and colors. As in the other rare cases of sight restoration, May needed to physically touch items to understand them. The implications for child development of sight are immense.

The access that Kurson had to May must have been extensive, as Crashing Through seems almost a memoir, though it is written in third person. It's tone is much like that of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which is a memoir written in the third person (probably by the joint author). Many readers will enjoy this book.

Kurson, Robert. Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See. New York : Random House, c2007. ISBN 1400063353

1 comment:

Nonanon said...

I wondered myself how this book would be classified--science, medicine, memoir, investigative? It's also complicated that Kurson is now so well-known as an "adventure" writer, because of "Shadow Divers." I give him credit for picking such a different story, and now here's another book I should add to my "to be read" pile!