Friday, April 10, 2009

A Match to the Heart (A Book Review)

Gretel Ehrlich, A Match to the Heart: One Woman’s Story of Being Struck by Lightning (1994, New York: Penguin, 1995), 201 pages.

In the summer of 1991, Gretel Ehrlich and her dog were struck by lightning in the mountains of Wyoming. In A Match to the Heart, Ehrlich tells her story of recovery. In addition to her personal story, the reader also learns about the workings of the body, the art of healing, a bit of meteorology along with mythological stories of lightning. Ehrlich has written a book of geography, describing the high country of Wyoming and the coastline of California along with the geography of the mind and of the heart.

At first, Ehrlich didn’t know what happened. There were dreams of the sea and waking moments with her dog, Sam. What happened? Was it a stroke? The book opens up in a dream-like state, as she takes the reader through her experiences. Slowly things became clear as a doctor diagnosed a lightning strike. They think she’s going to be fine, but the lightning has disrupted her heart. Her parents arranged for her to be transported to California, where she becomes a patient of a skilled and carrying heart specialist. Slowly, she is able to strengthen her heart as she learns more about this organ from her physician. As she regains her strength and confidence, she watches an open heart surgery, attends a conference for the victims of lightning strikes, returns to Wyoming and travels to Alaska to watch seals. As she resumes exploring the world, she has a new appreciation of the natural world which not only includes the world around us but the world inside of us.

There are many levels to this book. It’s an excellent example of creative non-fiction. I’d picked this book up last summer in a used bookstore in California. Several years ago I read an earlier book of hers (published in the 1980s), The Solace of Open Spaces. That book is about her moving from California to Wyoming during a difficult time in her life. I recommend both books.
For other book reviews by Sage, click here.
For Semicolon's Saturday's list of book reviews in blogs, click here.


  1. Both of those sound interesting to me. Thanks, Sage. Happy Easter!

  2. This book sounds lovely, and insightful. What did happen to the dog?

  3. Kenju, I'd start with the Solace of Open Spaces.

    Kiva and Stephanie: the dog is fine, but he did have some seizure issues that came from the strike.

  4. That really does sound like a good read.

  5. More than anything else, I worry about lightening strikes in the Rockies. I've never stayed on a ridge line past noon above about 8000 feet. That stuff comes out of nowhere.

    Thanks for the recommendation and "Happy Easter."


  6. This book sounds like something I'd recommend at the our next book club. Thanks for the review, Sage...and HAPPY EASTER!! :)

  7. I read The Solace of Open Spaces years ago. Loved it. This one sounds good, too.

  8. I think I will add it to the non-fiction Five Challenge from May 1 to Sep 30, 2009

    Do join in. THis year it is hosted by Trish of Trish's Reading Nook

  9. This is one of your finest reviews as in "I must read this soon."

    After having dinner in Calabesh last night I have a new appreciation for my heart and its ateries :)

    Hope you had a wonderful Easter

  10. This book sounds fascinating and was surely brought about by tragic circumstances that nevertheless yielded lessons of the human heart! I want to read it!!

  11. That's an interesting premise for a book and it sounds promising in content...thanks for mentioning.