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The Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic

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Hardcover published by Knopf (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

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About This Book

This taut yet lyrical memoir tells of the author’s experience with a baffling illness poised to take her sight, and gives a deeply felt meditation on vulnerability and on what it means to lose the faith you had and find something better.

One day at the end of 2009, during a routine eye exam that Nora Gallagher nearly skipped, her doctor said, “Darn.” Her right optic nerve was inflamed, the cause unknown, a condition that if left untreated would cause her to lose her sight. And so began her departure from ordinary life and her travels in what she calls Oz, the land of the sick. It looks like the world most of us inhabit, she tells us, except that “the furniture is slightly rearranged”: her friends can’t help her, her trusted doctors don’t know what’s wrong, and what faith she has left just won’t cover it. After a year of searching for a diagnosis and treatment, she arrives at the Mayo Clinic and finds a whole town built around Oz.

In the course of her journey, Gallagher encounters inhuman doctors, the modern medical system—in which knowledge takes fifteen years to trickle down—and the strange world that is the famous Mayo Clinic, complete with its grand piano. With unerring candor, and no sentimentality whatsoever, Gallagher describes the unexpected twists and turns of the path she took through a medical mystery and an unfathomably changing life. In doing so, she gives us a singular, luminous map of vulnerability and dark landscapes. “It’s the nature of things to be vulnerable,” Gallagher says. “The disorder is imagining we are not.”

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This taut yet lyrical memoir tells of the author’s experience with a baffling illness poised to take her sight, and gives a deeply felt meditation on vulnerability and on what it means to lose the faith you had and find something better.

One day at the end of 2009, during a routine eye exam that Nora Gallagher nearly skipped, her doctor said, “Darn.” Her right optic nerve was inflamed, the cause unknown, a condition that if left untreated would cause her to lose her sight. And so began her departure from ordinary life and her travels in what she calls Oz, the land of the sick. It looks like the world most of us inhabit, she tells us, except that “the furniture is slightly rearranged”: her friends can’t help her, her trusted doctors don’t know what’s wrong, and what faith she has left just won’t cover it. After a year of searching for a diagnosis and treatment, she arrives at the Mayo Clinic and finds a whole town built around Oz.

In the course of her journey, Gallagher encounters inhuman doctors, the modern medical system—in which knowledge takes fifteen years to trickle down—and the strange world that is the famous Mayo Clinic, complete with its grand piano. With unerring candor, and no sentimentality whatsoever, Gallagher describes the unexpected twists and turns of the path she took through a medical mystery and an unfathomably changing life. In doing so, she gives us a singular, luminous map of vulnerability and dark landscapes. “It’s the nature of things to be vulnerable,” Gallagher says. “The disorder is imagining we are not.”

Product Details
Hardcover (224 pages)
Published: May 21, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780307592989
Other books byNora Gallagher
  • Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic

    Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic
    A lyrical and honest portrait of illness and the way it changes life and faith, from the award-winning author of Things Seen and Unseen.   In the winter of 2009, Nora Gallagher was told she had an inflamed optic nerve, cause unknown, that if untreated would leave her blind. With this news, and the search for a diagnosis and treatment, her once busy and fast-moving life tunneled into a quieter country she calls Oz:  unfamiliar, slower, deeply rooted in uncertainty and vulnerability. Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, written as Gallagher was still recovering, is a moving meditation on serious illness, what helped her through and what didn’t, why a wall exists between the sick and the healthy, and what can take it down partway. It is also a testament of modern faith—accepting of both science and intellect—and a hard-won revelation of what lies at the heart of ordinary suffering.

    Things Seen and Unseen

    Things Seen and Unseen
    A Year Lived in Faith
    "Gracefully written and moving ... Things Seen and Unseen starts with Nora Gallagher entering the labyrinth of her life ... and ultimately it leads to the center of her being."--The Boston Globe It started with an occasional Sunday, a "tourist's" visit to a local church. Eventually Nora Gallagher entered into a yearlong journey to discover her faith and a relationship with God, using the Christian calendar as her compass. Whether writing about her brother's battle against cancer, talking to homeless men about the World Series, or questioning the afterlife ("One world at a time"), Gallagher draws us into a world of journeys and mysteries, yet grounded in a gritty reality. She braids together the symbols of the Christian calendar, the events of a year in one church, and her own spiritual journey, each strand combed out with harrowing intimacy. Thought provoking and profoundly perceptive, Things Seen and Unseen is a remarkable demonstration that "the road to the sacred is paved with the ordinary." "Like Kathleen Norris in Amazing Grace, Gallagher is renewing the language of ultimate concerns."--San Francisco Chronicle "The deep serenity that suffuses Gallagher's work, the lyrical cadences in which she writes, do not blunt the sharp edges of what she discovered in her quest for meaning."--Los Angeles Times

    Changing Light

    Changing Light
    Nora Gallagher’s elegant debut novel is a love story set in Los Alamos in 1945, in the shadow of the creation of the first atomic bomb.During the last summer of World War II, in the beautiful high desert of New Mexico, a young painter, Eleanor Garrigue, discovers a delirious man lying by the river. She takes him in and cares for him, not knowing that he is Leo Kavan, a physicist who has fled Los Alamos after a deadly radiation accident. Eleanor herself has left New York to escape a stifling marriage and to renew her painting in the pure desert light. As the two reveal themselves to each other, their pasts and the present unfold in tandem, taking us from the heady New York art world to Einstein’s Berlin, from English bomb labs to the hidden city of Los Alamos. As their enemies close in, they find temporary solace together, connected and changed in unexpected ways by the brutal radiance of the war and their fierce love.

    The Sacred Meal

    The Sacred Meal
    The Ancient Practices Series
    The sacred meal that is part of our faith does more than connect us to the holy.  It connects us to each other. "I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them." In her inimitable style of memoir and personal reflection, Nora Gallagher explores the beauty and mystery of this most fascinating of topics.  Whether exploring the history of Christian Communion, taking us inside the workings of a soup kitchen or sharing times of joy and sadness with friends, the author reminds us what it means to partake of and be part of the body of Christ. The Ancient Practices is an eight-book series with staggered releases through February 2010.  Though various books have covered some of these spiritual disciplines, there has never been an attempt at a definitive series until now.  Immensely compelling and readable, each classic book features a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, the general editor.

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