Take It Lying Down
Finding My Feet After a Spinal Cord Injury
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"A stunning account."―Kirkus, starred review
Take It Lying Down is “a movingly intricate weave—a detailed and poetic chronicle of healing against all odds, an intense love story, a narrative of a young man’s journey from Maine to New Mexico and adulthood, and a book of literary inspiration and wisdom . . . this is not a medical book, not a self-help book: it’s a literate, occasionally theatrical, surprisingly buoyant, always philosophical and compelling journey through one man’s life.”―From the Foreword by Len Jenkin
Six months shy of retirement and on a family vacation in Mexico, Jim Linnell steps off the porch of a rented guest house and breaks his neck. He is medevacked to his hometown hospital in Albuquerque and from there to a spinal cord injury hospital in Denver, where he learns he may live the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. How does a person absorb such news?
Jim’s injury is incomplete: He has a two-year window for improvement. After three months of rehabilitation at the hospital, he and his wife, Jennifer, return to their home with an armada of equipment for his therapy, a heavy dose of anxiety about how they will manage together, and many unanswerable questions: Will Jim get better? What kind of future will they have? Can they move past denial to accept the possibility that Jim may remain a quadriplegic?
Take It Lying Down portrays a man reclaiming his life from catastrophe―it is a book of exemplary courage.
Also available as an ebook:
“A powerful exploration of navigating physical disability . . . Every chapter is filled with memorable analogies and metaphors, making Linnell’s journey to partial recovery a pleasurable intellectual experience for readers despite the horrors, fears, and winding mental path through rehab . . . A stunning account.”―Kirkus, starred review
“A powerful look at what goes through the mind of someone whose life changes in the blink of an eye.”―Booklist
“[Take It Lying Down] is unique in Linnell’s combination of honest physical details, ironic humor, struggles against self-pity, tantrums, gratitude, and creative literary excursions . . . Linnell admirably succeeds at capturing the 'blessing wrapped in a curse,' and the comedy in the tragedy of coming to terms with the unpredictability of our mortal lives.”―The Pharos
"[Jim Linnell's] writing style is unique and offers a strong description of his experience that leads the reader to feel what he feels . . . It can add much to the education of medical students in the way that Jim details his experience navigating the emotional recovery of a sudden mind-body disconnect. He gives us a window into his psyche during the hardest and most intimate moments of his life."―The Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation
“Paralyzed, unable even to breathe on his own, in the aftermath of spinal cord injury Jim Linnell calls to mind what he has learned from a lifetime of teaching, producing, and writing about theater. The ancient Greeks in their tragic dramas ‘know you are screwed. They teach: look it in the face; you will not collapse or cower at catastrophe.’ He understands the power of speaking directly to an audience and affords us an intimate closeness as he and his life partner make a way out of no way. In this account of hellish injury and harrowing recovery, Linnell dramatizes his belief that ‘the question―how to live―is a question to ask and not to avoid.’ You can never again be exactly who you were an instant ago, but this engrossing book shows how to bear up and live in-between the inescapability of what was and the uncertainty of what is to come.”―Christina Crosby, author of A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain
“A revelatory, astounding memoir of overcoming enormous odds, Linnell’s tale expertly describes the course of his harrowing recovery following a catastrophic spinal cord injury. With insight and artfully written prose peppered with poetry, he deftly explores the challenges and triumphs which emblematize his journey past severe physical affliction. This is an amazing story of resilience and resurrection that is simultaneously moving, witty, and inspirational.”―Ashok Rajamani, author of The Day My Brain Exploded: A True Story
“A great book that deserves a place along with Kubler-Ross and de Quincy. With remarkable clarity, insight and humor, Linnell shares his journey―from the simple misstep on an evening walk with his wife that left him a quadriplegic, through the agonizing chamber of horrors known informally as 'rehab'―to a reconciliation with his fate and the strength to move forward . . . Despite Linnell’s arduous, incomplete journey, chronicled with such detail as to make the angels weep, the residual experience of reading the book is, surprisingly, one of courage and a refreshing if ironic optimism. His spine may be ravaged but his vision is clear. His prose is simple and impatient, always leaning forward as if eager to get to the next idea, the next image, the next step. He may not be able to walk but he’s always a step or two ahead of the reader, which is the secret of a page-turner . . . If the definition of art is to turn human experience, no matter how distressing, into something beautiful, Jim Linnell has produced not only a work of art but a manual for survival. We are all richer for his achievement.”―Marshall Brickman
“This profoundly literate memoir of courage stuns and moves, and in its ferocious honesty, delights as few books have over a lifetime of reading the true and fearless sagas of relative strangers who become intimate soulmates.”—Mark Medoff, Tony award-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Children of a Lesser God
“Take It Lying Down by Jim Linnell is a literary tour de force that inhabits the spaces of suffering and redemptive healing that can only come from the deepest centers of love. Both merciless and merciful, the book speaks to the heart core from a place of great wisdom and understanding . . . a profoundly deep and thoughtful and moving book.”―Denise Chávez, author of The King and Queen of Comezón, A Taco Testimony, and Loving Pedro Infante
“A powerful and gripping life story that inspires, teaches, and transcends the usual autobiography . . . Anyone who is fortunate to know him is blessed, and for those who don’t know him please read this book; it’s important!”―Patti Cohenour, Broadway actress
"Despite great advances in the treatment of spinal cord injuries over the past several decades, there is still no ability to fully restore the functional losses incurred as a consequence of these devastating injuries. At best, we are able to mitigate the progressive damage to the spinal cord, protect the function that remains (if there is any), and afford an opportunity for recovery. Following the first few weeks in the hospital for initial treatment, patients then embark on a long, arduous course of rehabilitation that perpetuates for months and even years. Unfortunately, a complete recovery never really happens. Jim Linnell’s biography beautifully captures the challenges, failures, and victories of that deeply personal and brutal journey. His narratives offer us a first-hand account of the viscerally disturbing (no pun intended) effects of surviving through the aftermath of a spinal cord injury, and the unwelcome but enlightening transformation from one life remembered to a life of unexpected challenges. His work afforded me even greater sensitivity and appreciation for the true persons who endure these injuries, their will to survive, and their new outlook on life.” ―Andrew Patterson, M.D., Adult Orthopaedic Spine Surgery, University of New Mexico School of Medicine
“A deep and intimate look into one man’s journey navigating spinal cord injury. Jim invites you into his story with authenticity and vulnerability, helping the reader appreciate the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of relationships during challenging circumstances. Jim is an artful storyteller; this book is a poetic reflection of heartbreak, struggle, hard work, and restoration.”―Meghan Joyce, PT, DPT, NCS
Listen to an interview with KUNM radio or watch an interview on New Mexico In Focus.
Read a profile of Jim in the Albuquerque Journal.
Read a Q&A with Deborah Kalb.
Jim Linnell is a writer, teacher, and director. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Theatre & Dance at the University of New Mexico and former Dean of the College of Fine Arts there. He is the author of Walking on Fire: The Shaping Force of Emotion in Writing Drama. His work has been performed in the U.S. and abroad in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. Linnell helped establish the MFA degree in Dramatic Writing at the University of New Mexico and an annual festival of new plays that now bears his name. He received his doctorate in directing from UC Berkeley. He and his wife live south of Albuquerque next to the Rio Grande; together they have three children and six grandchildren.