In a series of linked lyric essays, Detailing Trauma explores in vivid, sometimes graphic detail the many types of wounds from which the human body and spirit may suffer—and heal. Mapping the diseases and injuries that can afflict the body, the author asks how we can continue to live and love in the face of the great potential for suffering and loss.
She names each section of the book for body parts or processes, then juxtaposes the functions and failures of human anatomy with experiences in her own life and those of people she knows and loves, meticulously stitching together life’s fractures and ruptures with skillful narrative. Each essay offers glimpses of hope and reasons for living with the likelihood of chaos and pain, reasons for choosing to love despite the risks.
Zwartjes’s beautifully crafted poetic prose humanizes the technical descriptions of medical conditions and illuminates the scientific understanding of emotional states. Far more than a popularization of science, Detailing Trauma explores the wondrous anatomy and physiology of the human body, a geography of our human frailties—and also our wealth, as humans, of love and hope and the capacity for meditative thought.
“A stunning meditation on the body we live in, Detailing Trauma wraps love tight to life, insisting we prepare for the departure of both."—Terese Svoboda, author, Black Glasses Like Clark Kent
“With a voice recalling Annie Dillard’s in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Arianne Zwartjes weaves an intriguing and deft tapestry of the interplay of medicine, trauma, wilderness, and modern life. Finding details and leveraging insights to plumb deeper meanings in what others would simply write off as random acts of individual violence, she conducts a beautiful exploration of how the body’s fragility is the basis of our being human.”—Dr. N. Stuart Harris, Chief, Division of Wilderness Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital