a dramatist’s memoir about epilepsy

A grad school pal from my ’03-’04 CCNY days is having a fantastic time doing a bit of a book tour. As an actor and college instructor, he is perfectly suited to engage and teach the public about his experiences caring for someone with a severe illness. And he’s a hell of a writer, too. She Danced with Lightning is a memoir of Marc Palmieri and his family navigating their daughter Anna’s epilepsy over the course of about a decade and a half.

Since the book’s recent publication, I’ve seen many people posting on social media how they could not put Marc’s book down. They must be of stronger stuff then me. Marc, a playwright of several produced dramas, writes with the dramatic tension that one would expect of, well, a dramatist. The ebbs and flows of terror that Marc depicts in his narrative were so evocative that I had to pace myself: death of a child and ruined marriage a definite possibility at every turned page. I could only read one chapter per sitting, experiencing Marc’s anxiety and helplessness in the face of the medical mystery that was Anna’s disability. This isn’t to say there aren’t moments of levity in this story (e.g. Marc’s concerns about being illegally in possession of medical marijuana; adolescent Anna’s mild Tourette-like symptoms brought on by the lesion buried in her brain). And there are moments in the story that are truly relatable: the life of the artist needing to juggle jobs while finding time to work on the next piece of writing.

Marc helps the reader understand that all things worth caring about take a hell of a lot of hard work, endurance, and faith. And for Marc to keep pressing forward in the face of such uncertainty would have been a far more daunting trial without a multitude of friends and family supporting him.

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