Left Neglected is one of those books that I couldn’t put down after I started reading it. It is a depressing novel about Sarah, a career-driven woman, trying to manage a demanding job, three young kids, two mortgages, multi-tasking every waking minute of her life. She becomes handicapped after getting into a car accident because she was distracted by her mobile phone and took her eyes off the road for a second.
We probably know several people like Sarah who thrive in this sort of fast-paced, hectic life. Busy with something every minute of the day. Juggling many balls in their professional and private lives and just do not know how to, or wish to, slow down. Life is a whirlwind of activities, running from place to place, ticking off the multitude of items on a mental checklist. The kind of life that ‘makes one feel important’ eh?
As a result of the accident, she suffers from a serious brain injury known as Left Neglected, a condition where her brain becomes unable to process left information. In other words, her brain is completely oblivious to the left side of her body, including vision. She cannot see food that has been placed on the left of her tray; or anyone standing on her left. When she reads a book, she sees only the right side of the sentence and not the left, so whatever she reads makes no sense to her. She does not know how to use her left limbs – as far as she is concerned, those limbs do not exist. Even something as intuitive as turning one’s head to the left is impossible for her. When she paints a picture of a house, the painting shows only the right side of the house – the other half is missing – because her brain does not ‘see’ the left side of it.
Half of Sarah’s world literally vanished overnight. Being Left Neglected, she is unable to carry out daily activities on her own, has to undergo rehabilitation to learn how to use the left side of her body, and learns to accept the reality that she would never recover 100%.
The first half of the book describes her insane life before the accident while the second half focuses on how the life-altering accident gave her the time and opportunity to re-assess her life, tto rebuild a relationship with her estranged mother, spend quality time with her children and helping one of them deal with ADD.
The novel is an easy read. The author, a neuroscientist, describes the medical condition, Left Neglected and the effects of the condition very vividly, in a conversational manner and without the use of “brain-damaging” medical jargon. I enjoyed the writing in this novel so much more than Still Alice, the author’s previous book about a Harvard professor suffering from an early onset of Azheimer’s Disease. Another depressing read.