I do not remember the tubes, the tests, or the icy cold of space.
I do not remember losing six months of my life.
At age nineteen, Amy Nawrocki returned from her first year of college, scribbled a few notes in her journal, and took a terrifying summer trip. She remembers one night of disorientation, then nothing until Christmas, when awareness slowly restarts. The Comet’s Tail is the story of these missing months: the seizures and fever spikes, the deep nothing of coma, and the unexpected, dramatic recovery. Memory is recreated around EEG transcripts and doctors’ notes, family vigils and blurry Polaroids. From her unique perspective, Nawrocki investigates the connections between memory, trauma, and identity. She illuminates what it means to truly return to consciousness in this extraordinary memoir of illness, healing, and writing over the blank pages of our lives.
Advance Praise for The Comet’s Tail
“A complex and compelling memoir.” –Kirkus Reviews
“ . . . a comet is a thing of beauty and mystery—much like Nawrocki’s coma itself. And the linguistic echo between ‘comet’ and ‘coma’ has a poetic power and resonance that travels the length and breadth of this book’s ink-dark universe.” –NewPages
“From the first sentence of her elegant and strikingly poetic memoir, Nawrocki creates a palimpsest scrapping layers to reveal glimpses of her ‘summer of no memory.’ In The Comet’s Tail, Nawrocki delves through medical records, journals, and family stories to pose the question ‘does memory protect us from trauma or does trauma erase memory?’ Hers is a singularly courageous and fascinating journey in search of the answer.”
–Bessy Reyna, author of Memoir of the Unfaithful Lover
“Circling around a span of months erased by a serious illness, Nawrocki has crafted a stunning meditation on the nature of the self and memory. The power of the crafted sentence and examined, interrupted life in these pages will leave an indelible impression.”
–Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys
“The Comet’s Tale is the fascinating exploration of how memory, or its absence, fits between body and spirit. Amy Nawrocki takes us on a journey through piecing together the fragments that make up one period of her life and in doing so opens the door to reflection on what makes a memory, inviting us to ponder the uncertainties and questions that come together to make up a life: why we remember some things, forget others, and how our own story of memory impacts those with whom we share this life. Her story is a reminder that even when we try really hard to make sense of what happens, so much of life remains a mystery. Prepare to ride an unsettling yet beautiful current with the author, moving on a riptide of forgetting and confusion, down into the murky depths of nothingness, to suddenly emerge on the other side of awareness with a gasp, ready to fill the next blank page with whatever comes next.”
–Heidi Barr, author of Woodland Manitou: To Be on Earth
“Amy Nawrocki asks “How can I write a memoir about events for which I have no memory?” And then she proceeds to do just that in The Comet’s Tail. Her poet’s voice fills in the gaps of the six months she was lost to the effects of a brain infection. As a nurse, I’m moved by this glimpse into a patient’s experience; everyone caring for people with traumatic brain injury should read it. As I writer, I marvel at Nawrocki’s skill and elegance portraying the grief and grace, the mystery and the miraculousness, and yes, the hope and humor in waking up.”
–Iris Graville, author of Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance
“Amy Nawrocki’s The Comet’s Tail is a story of the empty space in a life, a time defined, paradoxically, not by memories but by forgetting. It is a beautifully written piece of soulful and jarringly honest reflection about her struggle to recover from a debilitating condition that left her unable to care for her self. The Comet’s Tail calls on us to ask ourselves: Is it only our conscious memory that makes us who we are? Who are we when we emerge on the other side of such an episode? How does one piece together oneself in its aftermath? Nawrocki’s experience is nothing short of a shamanic journey, a rite of passage, in which she emerges with profound insights—insights that come not from her memories but from the emptiness of this forgotten time. We are lucky to be able to hear her wisdom from the other side.”
–Theodore Richards, author of The Great Re-Imagining: Spirituality in an Age of Apocalypse
Amy Nawrocki recently gave a PechaKucha talk on the events she touches on in her memoir, The Comet’s Tail. Amy became ill at age 19, and eventually ended up in a coma. In the talk, “Annotating the Self: Writing and Recovering” she tells about her journey through her illness utilizing her own journals from before and after the event. Writing through the illness and during rehabilitation was important to processing events at the time and making sense of them after. Click through to listen to a live recording of Amy’s story.
Amy Nawrocki is the poetry editor of The Wayfarer and author of five poetry collections, including Four Blue Eggs and Reconnaissance. She is the co-author of A History of Connecticut Food, A History of Connecticut Wine, and Literary Connecticut. She teaches English at the University of Bridgeport and lives in Hamden Connecticut.