One Hundred Names For Love is an absorbing, uplifting account of the near-miraculous recovery of Diane's husband, the gifted writer Paul West, from a massive stroke that rendered him unable to communicate or understand language.
In the first days after his stroke, Paul - who had always found his greatest pleasures in reading and writing, crafting puns and word games - could utter only a single syllable: "mem". Doctors diagnosed him with severe global Aphasia - near-total loss of language - and warned Diane that he was unlikely to recover. Paul was unable to swallow his food without choking, or to perform simple tasks such as dressing or combing his hair. In the hospital's rehabilitation centre, Paul grew increasingly frustrated at his inability to communicate, while Diane felt powerless and exhausted. Traditional speech therapies seemed ineffective; Paul could craft a nearly complete sentence one minute and, the next, find himself unable to identify a simple drawing of a household object, such as a key or a clock.
Yet while listening in on Paul's conventional and seemingly fruitless language therapy, Diane had an insight that would change both their lives. It became clear that while Paul had lost the most elemental building blocks of language - everything he'd acquired in childhood - the stroke had left relatively untouched a region of the brain where the more sophisticated language he'd learned early in life was stored. He could not say "telephone", but he could say "tesseract".
As an acclaimed writer on science and nature who had written on the brain, Diane knew something about the brain's innermost workings. She designed a new kind of language therapy that could mine her husband's immense vocabulary and passion for words and reward his outside-the-box thinking. She, and Paul's ceaselessly energetic nurse, bombarded him with conversation, love and endless patience. With Diane's encouragement, Paul began making up new nicknames for his beloved wife, "riotous, spell-cast endearments" - a hundred new names for their love - like "Buoyant Elf" and "O Parakeet of the Lissome Star", concoctions that took the unpredictable expressions of Aphasia and transformed them into a language of creativity, affection and loyalty. Furthermore, after years of alternating breakthroughs and frustrations, Paul began, to everyone's surprise and delight, to write again.
One Hundred Names For Love is a compassionate yet unsentimental portrait of a marriage rocked by the effects of stroke and Aphasia; but it is also a celebration of the written word and the wonder of language.
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