Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life is a memoir by triple-amputee Linda Olson. While, admittedly, memoir isn’t my genre of choice, Olson’s story was incredible and enticing. From the first page, I was drawn into Olson’s narrative and consumed the rest of the book quickly thereafter. Olson is witty, honest, and resilient. She bars no details about her incredible recovery: every detail of Olson’s miraculous story is conveyed through Gone. She doesn’t ask for pity, in fact, she repeatedly infuses humor into her situation in an attempt to make both the reader and her family laugh! Gone was a wholly enjoyable and inspiring read for me, especially at a time when reflection and perspective are necessary.
Life, From Linda’s Point of View
In 1979, Linda Olson, aged 29, lost both her legs and her right arm in a tragic car-train-collision accident. At the time, she was vacationing in Germany with her husband, Dave, and his family, far from home. Dave and Linda, both in the
medical field, had left on their vacation assuming they’d go back to their residential studies as normal, but obviously, that was far from the case.
Gone jumps right into Olson’s story. The first chapter of the narrative details the accident and the trauma units that Olson encountered from that point forward. From page 1, Olson doesn’t bar any of the vital details to the story. She invites the reader into her life wholly. The reason why Gone was such an interesting read is because Olson recounts how she had to relearn her life. She details the frustration of having to learn how to write with her only remaining limb, her left hand. She relays how she and her husband navigated their sex life after the accident, and the way romance was altered. Olson is raw and honest about the way she viewed herself. She questions her own beauty and ability after losing 3 of her limbs. She allows the reader to rationalize the loss of so much of her body with her.
Olson’s perspective on life, being a survivor of a tragic accident, is unique on its own. Coupled with Olson’s unwavering humor and positivity, Olson paints a resilient picture of her own strength. She writes candidly of her choices to continue healing and trying new things, even as life and recovery got hard. Through it all, Olson never doubts her positivity or need to keep going. Gone is so compelling because of her constant strength and determination to overcome the struggles she writes about. This memoir is a distilled look at the sheer power of the human mind, and Olson’s mind is a particularly incredible example.
Love of a Lifetime
In tandem with her strength, Gone’s love story is beautiful. Dave and Linda, a young, newlywed couple at the time of the accident, face their struggles together. I admired the evident passion Olson expresses when she writes about her husband. The love element of Gone, for that reason, didn’t feel phony or ill-fated. Olson’s voice conveys strongly the love and respect she has for her husband, and their relationship is fully and beautifully fleshed out.
Despite the accident, Dave doesn’t leave Linda’s side. He encourages her, trusts in her strength. Together, they exemplify the kind of love that any couple wishes for. Even in the most severe and unfortunate circumstances, Dave and Linda stick by each other’s sides. They trust each other unconditionally and know that they can get through their challenges together. To see such an ideal romance applied to Linda’s story is inspiring in itself. I truly enjoyed reading about Dave and Linda’s love and family. Olson’s expression of true love, despite her accident, breathes hope into romantics everywhere: “‘I didn’t marry your arms and your legs… I married you—what’s inside you,‘” Dave proclaims.
I couldn’t recommend Gone more. Olson is an ideal storyteller, crafting her narrative in a way that’s consistent with her person. She isn’t tragic or asking for pity. Gone is a story of recovery, of Olson taking her life back, as the title suggests. In learning and living through Olson in the confines of this book, my own empathy and strength were pondered. Gone is an introspective experience as much as it is an inspiring one. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this memoir, and I believe there’s value in it for everyone. Gone is the story of Olson’s experience, but its message transcends and seeps into everyone’s lives.
I received an advanced copy of Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life in exchange for an honest review. Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life is out now.
Featured Image via Linda Olson.