Mike May is not your average anything, and certainly not your average blind person. From the time of his life-changing chemical accident at the age of three, May has not stopped running. Literally. He's run into goal posts, off of bicycles, and into the slopes on his skis. But after each tumble, he makes mental notes of what has happened, picks himself back up again and keeps going. As a teenager he even rode a motorcycle with a blind friend, and drove his sister's car down the street before getting scared and leaving it abandoned in the middle of the road. He and his mother fought to keep him in the public school system throughout his childhood, and after graduation he went on to get a college degree.
When May's wife Jennifer visited her ophthalmologist to check her contacts prescription, neither she nor May knew that they'd be walking out the door with seemingly impossible information --- May might be able to undergo an operation that would allow him to see once more. "That's interesting" was the answer both husband and wife gave, and then they put the information almost entirely out of their minds. After all, May had just launched his own GPS system for the blind and was busy promoting the new product. He and Jennifer had two young boys, an active social life and no time to think about making such a major change. Besides, May had always considered himself complete as he was. He didn't need vision to tell him what he already knew --- that he loved his wife and boys dearly and that life was not worth living without getting lost in the unfamiliar and finding your way out again.
However, this last point was what made May consider the surgery. Granted, it had only been performed a handful of times, and never on someone who had been blind for such a long period of time. It didn't have a high success rate, and the side effects included cancer from the drugs he would have to take. But he was a naturally curious person who loved trying anything new. Vision would be new. How could he turn his back on such an adventure?
Robert Kurson writes CRASHING THROUGH with a high level of authority and detail. He has spent enough time with May, Jennifer and the various friends and doctors who form such a big part of their lives that he can estimate past dialogue and write each scene as though it happened before his eyes. Kurson's storytelling ability is fluid, so that for the most part the reader is aware of the story and not the one telling it. This seems to be truer the farther one gets into the book, as though either the reader or the author himself has gotten more accustomed to his specific narrative style.
CRASHING THROUGH enables sighted individuals to take a new look at what they see everyday. We never think about the ways our eyes and minds connect to view scenes before us instantaneously. But May takes us into that world with his unflinching curiosity and will to persevere. He has so many obstacles before him, but his daily motto remains: "There's always a way."
Reviewed by Shannon Luders-Manuel on August 19, 2008
Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See