In January of 2014, Joshua Tree’s beloved village herbalist, Jenny Q. suddenly became seriously ill and rapidly descended into a coma with slender chance of survival. The shock of this news initiated an overwhelming outpouring of love, wit, service, practical magic and sharing of spiritual wisdom between those in her intimate desert community. Indeed it seemed that the entire group became one in their desperate effort and race against the clock to save her life.
While the words of others in the community tell the story in this book, it is Jenny’s own insightful writings that provide a fascinating window into a range of rare experiences. She gives us a unique glimpse into the mysterious worlds encountered while in a coma, the absolute alteration of losing one’s legs, the subtle venom of PTSD, the nightmare of withdrawal from prescription opiates, and the maddening frustration of having to re-learn basic skills previously taken for granted such as the ability to walk.
This book is in some ways hard to review because it truly unique in terms of how it is written and there are many, many layers of the human experience it explores.
The main story line is both simple and frightening - Jenny Q goes in for a minor surgery and by the next day is fighting for her life. A serious infection has taken hold that only has a 5% survival rate. Her journey through this abyss is told through short personal remembrance notes, songs and poetry written by herself, her friends, her family, her community and her partner. The price to survive? Loss of many pieces of her body including both her legs and the fingers on one hand. In the end she had around 50 surgeries to deal with the ravages of the infection.
Because of the way Jenny Q's story is told, we see the most serious days in the hospital through the eyes of others. How it affects them, what they see, the fear and how they come together in support. With limited access, many focus on standing beside her spiritually, holding her close and offering her spirit a tether. We see the power of coming together as a community.
We are also introduced throughout the narrative to Jenny's journey to this moment - her life as a Dead Head, her marriage, the birth of her child and divorce, opening her Grateful Desert shop, her relationship with her ethnic family (both the strengths and the challenges) and the joy of finding her life partner. After she returns home we walk with her through the struggles to accept the changes to her body - will her partner still find her beautiful with the disfigurements - and the limits she has to learn to work around. It was also an eye-opener for her to experience how others reacted to her "disabilities."
A wonderful and inspiring read that explores so much more than just illness and recovery.
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Fab Author Interview HERE!
Jenny Q was born in Southern California to Palestinian immigrants. Her love of herbs began in her teens while on the road following the Grateful Dead. After exploring many heart homes, she set her roots in Joshua Tree, California, where she opened Grateful Desert, the local apothecary. Joyously sharing her life with her tight-knit desert community, Jenny lives with her beloveds~ Yazzy, her daughter and Myshkin, her wife.