Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Beauty in the Broken Places by Allison Pataki (Review)

Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience
Adult, Nonfiction, Autobiography
Publication Date:May 1, 2018
Published By:  Random House
Website:Allison Pataki 

Beauty in the Broken Places on Goodreads
My review copy:
Received from the publisher

Where to get:

https://smile.amazon.com/Beauty-Broken-Places-Memoir-Resilience/dp/0399591656/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525785267&sr=8-1&keywords=beauty+in+the+broken+places https://smile.amazon.com/Beauty-Broken-Places-Memoir-Resilience/dp/0399591656/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1525785267&sr=8-1&keywords=beauty+in+the+broken+places https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780399591655

A deeply moving memoir about two lives that were changed in the blink of an eye, and the love that helped them rewrite their future

Five months pregnant, on a flight to their “babymoon,” Allison Pataki turned to her husband when he asked if his eye looked strange, and watched him suddenly lose consciousness. After an emergency landing, she discovered that Dave—a healthy thirty-year-old athlete and surgical resident—had suffered a rare and life-threatening stroke. Next thing Allison knew, she was sitting alone in the ER in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting to hear if her husband would survive the night.

When Dave woke up, he could not carry memories from hour to hour, much less from one day to the next. Allison lost the Dave she knew and loved when he lost consciousness on the plane. Within a few months, she found herself caring for both a newborn and a sick husband, struggling with the fear of what was to come.

As a way to make sense of the pain and chaos of their new reality, Allison started to write daily letters to Dave. Not only would she work to make sense of the unfathomable experiences unfolding around her, but her letters would provide Dave with the memories he could not make on his own. She was writing to preserve their past, protect their present, and fight for their future. Those letters became the foundation for this beautiful, intimate memoir. And in the process, she fell in love with her husband all over again.

This is a manifesto for living, an ultimately uplifting story about the transformative power of faith and resilience. It’s a tale of a husband’s turbulent road to recovery, the shifting nature of marriage, and the struggle of loving through pain and finding joy in the broken places.


Allison's novels hold a special place in my heart. Back in 2014 I interviewed her for The Traitor's Wife, a historical fiction novel about Benedict Arnold's wife and again in 2015 for The Accidental Empress, a historical fiction novel delving into the first half of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary's life. Since then she released Sisi: Empress on Her Own, the continuation of Sisi's story.

Beauty in the Broken Places is not a historical novel, but a true story of love and faith. Interspersed with chapters of their romantic history, Allison takes us from the first moments of Dave's stroke to the birth of their daughter a few months later and ending with the one year anniversary of the day their lives changed.

Allison's writing is so beautifully done that I don't feel I'm reading the story of two strangers, but I'm living through a harrowing time with friends. Her writing is personal and heartfelt, full of raw emotion and truth that is often hard to come by in such personal memoirs. We don't get the full brunt of Allison's letters to Dave, but we are provided glimpses of the emotions she went through.

I can't imagine having gone through what Allison did, especially while pregnant. What was supposed to be an exciting time of her life could have been completely tragic, but she pulled through with the help of her friends and family. Eventually, Allison learned she had to ask for help:
"To acknowledge that I could not soldier through this one on my own. I had never been ripped open like this, sapped of my strength and stripped of the shiny veneer of confidence and self-sufficiency that I had always been able to present to the world, not as an artificial facade but because prior to that, I had generally felt like I was in control. That I could hand it - whatever it was."

My emotions went through the ringer on this one and I just wanted to hug Allison - I still do. (That sounds creepy.) She showed amazing strength and resilience throughout her husband's recovery and while I don't know all the details, I can't imagine Allison held back much from us. Dave's Epilogue earns him a hug too.

Now I feel like a real creep.

If you haven't read any of Allison's novels yet, I highly recommend starting with this one. Not only will get you to know Allison the person, but also Allison the author, the wife, and the mother. But most importantly, Allison the Survivor. 

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