Saturday, April 12, 2014

Torn apart: The heartbreaking true story of a childhood lost by James Patterson and Hal Friedman

Cory was a normal little boy - until he got the irresistible urge to shake his head.  That was the moment that would define his life for more than a decade as his family and doctors tried medication after medication and therapy after therapy to tackle his unique combination of Tourette syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, among other conditions.  The story is brought to heart breaking relief through the use of first person narrative, rather than describing Cory's symptoms in a clinical and abstract way, this story is Cory's voice and you experience every heartbreak, every failed medication, every stumbling block as if you were there when it happened.  There is confusion, prejudice, pettiness, daily struggles, and most of all a loving family that doesn't give up on him. 

Co-authored by James Patterson and Cory's dad Hal Friedman, this is a brutally honest look into a young life that was almost destroyed b y a complex set of neurological disorders that created a living hell for Cory and his family - especially at times when he was treated with the "best" medications.  Over the years Cory was on dozens of medications and saw nearly as many doctors, taking combinations of medication that caused a range of symptoms including weight gain, fatigue, chronic pain, increased energy, increased ticking, and risk taking behaviour.  This is a story that was difficult to read because of all the times the hopes and dreams of the family were dashed and Cory ended up back at zero.  The glimmer of hope throughout the whole story is the obvious love and support of his family - especially his mother and his father.

This is not an easy read, and at times I was grateful for the involvement of James Patterson who has a knack for conveying intensity and emotion without using excessive amounts of text - the story is told succinctly, almost bluntly, and carries you from moment to moment alongside Cory as he experiences the pain and failure of treatment plan after treatment plan.  Ultimately though this is not a story about failure or loss, it is about one family and their path from diagnosis to living day-to-day with some control and normalcy.  Cory is a person you can't help but connect with through his story, and had Patterson and Friedman chosen a more traditional approach to this biography I think it would have lost a great deal of the impact - it is Cory's words that suck you in and spit you out.

At times I was crying reading Cory's story, at other times I laughed, and at other times I just didn't know what to think or feel.  This is one of those stories that you will either read from cover to cover and be a better person for the reading, or it will be one of those stories that you can't read more than a few words of without putting it aside - I fell into the first category and hope others out there will give Cory and his story a chance.

Take your time with this story and pause when you need to.  If you read this book and want to read other biographies from people who have lived through difficult experiences and trauma, then try:

Reviewed by Brilla 

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