I had not loved Oliver Sacks’s last book so I picked up this one rather gingerly, and I’m glad I did. The Mind’s Eye tells stories of patients who may be able to see or hear like the rest of us (although some cannot) but who cannot make sense of the information in the seamless, beautiful way that we arrogantly take for granted. So there is a woman who grabs the doctor’s bag on her way out because it looks like one she owns (she must have been disappointed not to find her phone and sunglasses in it, tucked away as normal). There is a man who cannot read if he doesn’t write the words he reads while reading them. And there are several people, including the author, who can see perfectly well but who cannot recognize faces and who blissfully walk by loved ones and acquaintances alike without recognizing or greeting them. Unsurprisingly, this can create serious problems! And the book is quite inspiring and full of hope, as each tale of woe also highlights the great ingenuity that sufferers deploy to work around the problems, often successfully.
The last and rather long case study is dedicated to the author’s scary battle with eye cancer, starting with greatly altered vision in a movie theater of all places, and unfortunately, like most stories of personal woe, it’s a little boring — if finely detailed and analyzed, and with touching acknowledgments of the despair and frustration we all feel in front of disease, whether or not our name ends in MD.