May 20

Crashing Through: The Extraordinary True Story of the Man Who Dared to See

Posted by Soliloquy in Vision Impaired

Mike May spent his life crashing through. Blinded at age three, he defied expectations by breaking world records in downhill speed skiing, joining the CIA, and becoming a successful inventor, entrepreneur, and family man. He had never yearned for vision. Then, in 1999, a chance encounter brought startling news: a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery could restore May’s vision. It would allow him to drive, to read, to see his children’s faces. But the proce… More >>

Crashing Through: The Extraordinary True Story of the Man Who Dared to See

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5 Responses

  • Robert Kurson swept me away with “Shadow Divers,” his rousing, true-life WWII treasure hunt. He introduced us to real people with foibles and strengths; he gave appropriate, often hair-raising details; and he kept in focus the human element of relationships and desire.

    “Crashing Through” is a completely different type of story, and yet it captures those same elements–in much narrower focus. This time, Kurson leads us through the dramatic issues of sight, self-reliance, self-discovery, and the pleasures and pain of dreaming large. We find these things embodied in the story of Mike May, a man blinded at age three by a chemical burn. Mike has lived life on the edge, “crashing through” every obstacle in his desire to enjoy each day. His well-balanced, mostly normal life, is endangered by an exciting new opportunity: the chance to see again.

    The offer is not risk-free. Mike and his supportive wife, Jennifer, face emotional and health risks as he begins a harrowing journey back to the world of the sighted. The marriage they have built together for over a decade will be knocked off balance. Will he lose his friends and credibility within circles of the blind? Could the overwhelming responsibility of sight become a millstone around Mike’s neck? What if his business can’t withstand his temporary absences? Even more foundational: Will Mike May discover he is not who he thought he was, who he’s proclaimed himself to be?

    With inimitable touch, Kurson takes us through this scientific, emotional, and thoroughly fascinating story. He gives intimate details of the world of the blind, and even more intimate looks into Mike May’s journey back to sight. There are moments of heartache and fear, as well as scenes of understated rapture. The book’s only disappointing, somewhat ironic, element is the lack of photos. I would’ve loved to see these people in color, to see those whose lives were changed.

    With that caveat aside, I cannot recommend the book highly enough. Kurson is a master at allowing those readers unfamiliar and “blind” to a certain subject to “see” the heart and mind behind it in blazing color. Mike May dared to see, and Kurson dared to give us the details.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  • This is quite simply the most amazing book I have read in years. From a purely superficial perspective, the book is a great read, it is intense, griping and entertaining. But “Crashing Through” is more like an onion than a book. Though I just read and finished it over the last three days I can see myself reading this book many, many more times in the future and drawing fresh insights from it. Among the layers:

    It is a fascinating exploration into the science and pyschology of vision, extremely complicated material that I felt was delivered masterfully in layman’s terms without oversimplifying the material, and with a variety of illustrations to further explain complicated processes.

    Another reader commented that it is a sort of self-help book and I agree, one can certainly see the motivational speaker at work in many parts of the book. I don’t mean that as a detraction though, on the contrary I found the way that Mike May has quite literally “crashed through” life to be rather challenging to me personally.

    The moral, ethical, and spiritual facets of blindness, vision, and vision restoration are extremely engaging. Normally I just tear through books, but this one took me some time to finish because I had to stop frequently to think about the words on the page, not to comprehend them but to really contemplate the message. Beyond the mechanics of vision, what does it mean to truly “see” — and which is more valuable? Vison or “seeing.”

    Last, as another reviewer also mentioned, it’s a great parenting book…and I’d add marriage manual to that as well.

    I highly recommend this book, I think it would be great for a book club as there is no shortage of discussion topics. I have several friends who are teachers and I think this book would be great to “read alound” to a class (though there is one post-vision-restoration-romance-encounter…just one chapter they’d better skip, but for older teens I don’t think even that would be a problem.) I’ll certainly read it to my kids someday. And though I never buy people books because I don’t want to impose my taste on anybody, in this case I will definitely make an exception.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  • I really enjoyed the writing in this story of a blind man who is given the chance to see. The first part of the book introduces the life of Mike May, the fellow who has lived without vision since childhood. It is, by any reckoning a good life. The second part of the book explores the feelings he and his family go through at the prospect of him being given vision. The last part of the book explores his experience of his new sense.

    I actually cried a few times, so well was May’s reaction to his newfound sight described. I had to put the book down and take a break from reading. Much of the book is, though emotional, softer and less striking. That is what I found so impressive about Robert Kurson, he built up the foundation of the story, then gave it a payoff with his detailed descriptions of what it was like to see. Amazing stuff.

    There is a little bit of information about research into visual perception, a subject which as always interested me, but Kurson avoided the mistake of clouding the drama of his story by over-explaining the science.

    Very well done.
    Rating: 4 / 5

  • When you read this book you will be amazed. Vision is far more than a functioning eye – It is very complex. This is Kurson’s 2nd book. Both of his books are thrilling true stories. I read this book in one sitting which I can only do if a book is truly compelling.

    I read Kurson’s first book Shadow Divers and told you about it in an online review. It was such a great book.

    Now, Kurson is out with his 2nd book and it is just terrific. It took me about 6 hours to read the book, but I am a slow reader. However, I didn’t want to miss any of the description because it is so vivid. I loved the drama & mystery in the story, Mike’s courage and the science of vision. Squeeze it into your busy schedule. My guess is that you will love the book.

    Crashing Through is beautifully written and thrillingly told. The story told is a journey of suspense, daring, romance, and insight into the mysteries of vision and the brain.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  • There are few books that can claim more fascinating heroes than does Crashing Through. Blinded by a chemical explosion at age three, Mike May “crashes through” life (sometimes literally!) with breathtaking recklessness until a cutting-edge surgery restores his vision decades later. Blind, Mike lives life with more gusto and success than the majority of sighted people. He skis, invents, travels, loves, and learns with the best of them, in locales as exotic as Ghana as dangerous as a self-built radio tower, and as familiar as the laid-back university setting at UC Santa Cruz. This is a man who forcefully rejected the restrictions of blindness and became a Renaissance man to be reckoned with. So far, so good; we all love a good underdog story.

    Disappointingly, however, the execution falters. The narrative is choppy and ham-handed at points, with repetitive exposition and stilted, fabricated dialogue. Kurson hero-worships Mike, and the constant emphasis on Mike’s myriad risks and successes feels a little like sitting in a long church service. We should all be happy with what we have, Kurson seems to be saying. Just look at Mike. That’s a valid reason to write a book, but it detracts from Mike’s situation, which is what we’re really interested in. Exactly what does he do to overcome all these challenges? Kurson does tell us, but buries it all among too many accolades.

    The last few chapters of the book, arguably the best written, are devoted to the problems Mike has after his surgery. Kurson allows us a glimpse of the myriad tests that Mike underwent to determine the extent of the neurological deficiencies he suffers (a result of going blind at such an early age). Here, finally, there is science, a definite plot to follow, rather than just tracing out Mike’s life in a strung-out series of anecdotes.

    A minor quibble: Kurson insists on referring to Mike as “May” throughout the book. Every other character is referenced by a first name or a title; the discrepancy is curious as well as distracting.

    On the whole, Crashing Through manages to convey the exuberance and eagerness with which Mike May tackled his life, both while blind and sighted. The story comes through, although perhaps a more skilled biographer would have produced a cleaner narrative. Probably not worth going out and buying new. With its optimistic message, simple language, and straightforward story, it’s not a book to really sink your teeth into, but if you’re looking for a quick mood booster, it’s a good pick at your local used bookshop.
    Rating: 3 / 5

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