Was it really necessary to ID Bob Woodruff on In An Instant’s jacket as ”ABC News Anchor”? I can’t believe there isn’t a news-watching adult who doesn’t know the story of what happened to Woodruff in January 2006, when the armored vehicle he was riding in was struck by an IED. But almost no one knows the story of what came next, as Woodruff, gravely injured by the shrapnel that had pierced his brain, battled pneumonia, sepsis, and more. With part of his skull removed, his wife Lee recalled that ”his brain was still swollen out of his head like a giant tumor.”
If only the book — written as back-and-forth between husband and wife — had stuck to the pretty powerful story of Woodruff’s crisis and convalescence, and nothing more. Lee kept a journal and notes for her husband, ”knowing that the reporter in him would want to learn every detail of his time after his injury.” She doesn’t prettify anything, and her descriptions — of his physical trauma, of her emotional roller coaster — are immediate and raw. But unfortunately, In An Instant bounces back and forth between the events of the last year and the history of the Woodruff courtship and marriage. Not only does it make for a confusing time frame, it dilutes the book’s impact.
There may be no end of treatment for Woodruff, who still undergoes cognitive therapy. As Lee says, things that once seemed small now loom large: the first time her husband could figure a tip, the first time he got on an airplane himself. And yet he’s one of the lucky ones, and not only that he survived the attack. After the excellent care the U.S. military gave him in Iraq and Germany, he could afford top-notch rehabilitative care, something few soldiers with traumatic brain injuries can.
It’s hard to be too critical of a book like this. Woodruff and his wife went through a horrendous experience, and they deserve kudos for writing with honesty. My advice to those of you who want to pick it up: Just skim — or skip — all the stuff prior to January 2006. B-