Deeply moving memoir traces the arc from disaster to revival

White Man’s Disease, by Paul C. Thornton. Book-Broker Publishers. 244 pages. Trade paperback $19.95.

Here is a surprising, inspirational memoir that is at once highly personal and broadly instructive. Paul, the oldest of six children, was raised in Brooklyn and on Long Island. At school, he showed intelligence, though he sometimes bordered on being in trouble. His academic abilities were recognized, often resulting in special educational opportunities. He excelled in situations where expectations of Afro-Americans were unfortunately low.  whitemansdisease

Three years in the Army gave Paul some special skills and a strong work ethic. He was in a program that allowed him to graduate college upon finishing his term in the military. He was able to go on graduate school, and after receiving a master’s degree he was recruited by the DuPont corporation, where he moved up the corporate ladder steadily. Home was now in Wilmington near DuPont headquarters. He and his wife Dorey were on track for a grandly successful life together.

However, their ascent was threatened by an unexpected discovery: Paul had a brain tumor for which delicate, high-risk surgery offered the only possible remedy. In 1985, at the age of twenty-nine, the future did not look so bright at all.

Paul Thorton’s narration regarding the accumulation of information about his condition, the meetings with a series of physicians include the neurosurgeon who would operate, and the long, difficult recovery, is vivid and emotionally powerful. The life-saving operation left Paul with only one good eye, severely reduced hearing, and minimal control over his facial muscles. This is not to mention the long cranial scar. Brain surgery is not for sissies.

Thornton

Thornton

Over time, further surgeries and therapies mitigated these consequences of the tumor excision, but they did not disappear. Paul was not pleasant to look at, and he knew it. Not being able control his mouth and lips, he had trouble eating and had to drink with a straw. He strove to maintain a positive attitude, but despair was as much a battle as his medical issues.

DuPont held onto Paul’s job, and he was able to make the adjustments that put him back on the track of gaining new and higher responsibilities. He and his wife had two daughters whom he loved dearly, but sometimes his workaholic ways created barriers. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the October 26, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the October 27 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here:  Florida Weekly – Thornton

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