Friday, October 4, 2019

Book Review: 'Not Fade Away' by Rebecca A. Alexander

Thirty-four year old Rebecca Alexander considers herself blessed. She has a devoted family, caring friends, and a thriving psychotherapeutic practice. What makes her memoir, "Not Fade Away," particularly compelling is that Alexander maintains an upbeat attitude in spite of the fact that she is gradually losing her sight and hearing. She has a rare genetic disorder, Usher Syndrome type III, for which there is no cure. As the years pass, her hearing fades and her field of vision narrows. She begins to realize that she had better seize the day before her world shrinks even further.

With the able assistance of co-writer Sascha Alper, Rebecca candidly, poignantly, and amusingly recounts the highs and lows of her life thus far in a series of succinct and eloquent chapters. The low points include having to endure countless tests and visit innumerable doctors before finding out the irreversible nature of her affliction; forcing herself to ask for help when she desperately wants to feel "normal"; struggling with body image issues; and coming to terms with the fact that her parents and twin brother have problems of their own. The high points are Rebecca's two master's degrees from Columbia and her certification in psychodynamic psychotherapy from the American Institute for Psychoanalysis; her ability to empathize with and care for the patients she treats; her enjoyment of all types of vigorous exercise; and most of all, sharing her thoughts and feelings with the people she loves.

Rebecca does not live on Sunnybrook Farm. Even her optimism has limits. When she is angry, she lets loose with four letter words and when she is upset and overwhelmed, she complains and sheds copious tears, just like the rest of us. She also sheepishly admits that she behaved badly on a number of occasions; looking back, she wishes that she had made better choices. Fortunately, she learned from her mistakes. "Not Fade Away" imparts valuable lessons that everyone would do well to absorb: Each of us, whenever possible, should make every moment count, reach out to others, and most of all, appreciate what we have instead of bemoaning what we lack.

At the beginning of this extraordinary book, Rebecca quotes Mark Twain's touching words: "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." Rebecca Alexander is a beautiful, independent, and inspiring woman who believes that she has a great deal to celebrate. "I have created memories," she says, "that will stay with me long after my eyes and ears have lost their ability to capture new ones."

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right