three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
30-Sept-Oct-2007
user_rating: 
0

A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See

A-Crashing ThroughDespite having been blinded in a chemical explosion at the age of three, Mike May, one of five children, lived a resolutely normal life, playing ball, wrestling, biking, even acting as a school crossing guard. As an adult, May became the CIA’s first blind employee, a ski racer, an entrepreneur and inventor, and a husband and father. When offered the chance to restore sight in his one remaining eye through a risky procedure with potentially devastating side effects, May agrees. After successful surgery, he discovers a reality far removed from what he has known for more than 40 years. Depression mingles with wonder, and May struggles to embrace vision and to make sense of a world at once beautiful and disturbing.
Random House. 306 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 1400063353

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Kurson—a former Sun-Times and Chicago magazine feature writer, now a contributor to Esquire magazine and author of the deep-sea account Shadow Divers—uses May’s difficult decision, in 1999 at age 46, to frame May’s story and those of his family and friends. … He lays all that out clearly but without condescension and in small sections a nonscientist can digest." Alexander C. Kafka

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"[Kurson] does a worthy job of crawling into May’s head. … Crashing Through might make you better appreciate your own vision, but it will leave you full of admiration for a man who triumphed over losing his sight—and regaining it." James F. Sweeney

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"Crashing Through has a Flowers for Algernon quality. You’ll find yourself completely immersed in May’s life and pulling for him to succeed." Dan Danborn

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The chapters dealing with May’s decision-making are sometimes a bit dry, but that seems as much a function of May’s matter-of-fact demeanor as Kurson’s methodical well-researched writing. … Kurson expertly captures May’s wonderment during his first year of sight—the joyous discovery of his wife’s body, the exhilarating view atop his favorite ski slope—and his crushing disappointment when he realizes his vision isn’t working the way it does for other sighted people." Lisa Arthur

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Crashing Through becomes most interesting when the flaws in Mr. May’s new eyesight become apparent. … But [it] is such a determinedly happy book that it is not about to let its main character experience defeat." Janet Maslin

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"[Kurson] spends too much time trying to make Mike May into a fearless hero when he might just be a guy who wandered into the right doctor’s office at the right time. But the material about how human vision is understood to work is terrific, making the book a first-rate piece of medical reporting." Carolyn See

Critical Summary

Robert Kurson’s Shadow Divers ( 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2004), a tale of a deadly search for a German U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, became an instant classic among adventure readers who enjoy well-told, high-octane nonfiction. In Crashing Through, the author finds an equally compelling subject. Kurson’s journalistic instincts are strong, and tight writing and thorough research reflect his journalist background. The profile of Mike May is generally engaging—particularly in describing the difficult transition to the sighted world and what happens when May is ripped out of his comfort zone. However, readers should know that the story of May’s personal struggles takes a back seat to Kurson’s lucid exploration of the brain’s circuitry and fascinating details of how we can have vision without really seeing.