Joe Faber is a funny guy, good with his hands, and great with words – until the stroke which leaves him severely disabled.


But this is more than his story. There’s Fran, Joe’s wife, who draws up her manifesto and decides to act like an optimist; she hasn’t planned to be a caregiver. Their talented daughter Jess, who turns her trouble into music. And Jess’s fiancé Matt, the management trainer, innocent, positive and daft, who’ll do his best to keep them all on target.

Art School training made Joe a close observer of the world, but once he leaves hospital, how does the world see him? And care is erratic. So will Fran have to give up the job she loves? Can Matt’s energetic but insensitive sister be trusted to organise the wedding?

There’s heartbreak and absurdity along the way; but humour is the family’s greatest asset in the drive to get Joe back on his own two feet. You’ll hear some wonderful fiddle music, and visit some magical Shetland places. Besides being fiercely honest about a tough subject, Gill Oliver’s second novel is marked by a zest for life, and will surprise you right to the end.

A Bibliotherapist’s prescription

Ailment: Stroke, having a (or living with someone who’s had one)
Cure: Joe Faber and the Optimists (Gill Oliver)
The damage caused by a catastrophic bleed in the brain – known as a “stroke” – is different for everyone. But the ripples affecting those in its orbit – the sufferer, their family, their carers – are often strikingly similar. It helps to know we’re not alone – that others have also had to learn to speak and walk, again, or wield a knife and fork without stabbing themselves in the eye. But it’s tricky to speak of these things. And sometimes the most effective, direct and honest way to benefit from someone else’s story is by reading about it in a book.   
This fictionalised account of one man’s stroke and the often frustrating journey of recovery that follows will bring relief and a much-needed sense of recognition to anyone who’s been there too. Joe Faber is a husband, a father, a professional technical artist – a man who has always relied on a steady hand and ability to make others laugh. Now, on the other side of a stroke that is as devastating as it is unexpected, he is forced to find out who he is again – and who he must leave behind. 
What Joe and his family discover above all is that it takes hard work to stay positive – but that positivity is a must. Written by someone who’s witnessed a stroke at first hand and emerged with her sanity (just about) in tact, this novel is that rare and precious thing: a hand-holder and a heart-felt hug, tailored to a specific situation. Administering hope and regular hearty laughs, it’s a powerful antidote to despair and an essential manual for anyone affected by stroke: families, carers, medical workers, and those thinking about going into the caring profession. 
A stroke can happen to anyone. It really helps that it’s already happened to Joe. 
Susan Elderkin, co-author with Ella Berthoud of The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies (Canongate).

If you have a special interest in stroke…  ourstrokeblog.org

It’s strictly non-fiction. We focus on the long haul, because rehabilitation goes on indefinitely.  There’s a mix of past and present, observations and reflections. 

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