A Scar is Also Skin

A memoir of stroke, heart attack and remaking.

For the first twenty-seven years of his life, Ben McKelvey didn’t spend too much time thinking about his brain, nor much about trauma. He was fit, carefree and happy working as a magazine journalist, writing listicles and doing celebrity junket interviews. Then one day while boxing, he suffered a stroke. In the time it took for a left hook to be thrown, Ben disconnected from language and therefore the world. He wanted nothing more than to go back to normal life and, after a time, it looked like he had. He spoke again in a few days, read in a few weeks and then, in months, returned to his listicles and junkets. Only normal life no longer felt normal. Ben’s brain had changed, and so had he. Ben’s stroke was followed a few years later by a startling heart attack. A crisis followed, and surgeries: dangerous, painful and scarring. On an unsteady path of recovery, Ben started to question everything about his life. He wondered what makes us who we are, and what role family, fate and physiology plays. He wondered what a good life looks like. Combining autobiography, reportage and science, Ben Mckelvey tells his personal story, along with research about psychology, physiology and neuropathology. In the telling, Ben investigates trauma, change and resilience. This is a powerful book for anyone who has ever been broken, and hoped to find themselves remade.

This review was published in the SEP/NOV 2023 issue of The Art of Healing.