Face, A Memoir by Marcia Meier
Reviewed by Terri Mork Speirs, June 2021
When Marica Meier was five years old, she was dragged nearly 200 feet underneath a car in front of her home, in a catastrophic accident that happened in a matter of moments. She writes:
My cheek was scraped off down to the bone, my left eyelid was missing, and the bottom lid was carved away from the eyeball, though the eyeball was intact. (17)
The left side of her face was gone. Her trauma was further aggravated by a series 20 surgeries whereby skin was grafted from other parts of her body for facial reconstruction. Her hands were often tied during and following the procedure. Sometimes she was also blindfolded to keep her still for the surgeon. She experienced teasing from classmates and taunting from her church and teachers, who would often have her detained alone in the coat closet for “acting out.” The words of her mother haunted her for years: “We told you never to cross the street without looking.” As if she were to blame.
The Center’s approach to mental health counseling is often described as the integration of the mind-body-spirit connection. But what does that mean? This book is a deep dive exploration of these interconnected parts.
Marcia Meier’s mind shines as she searches her own memories and acknowledges the variable nature of memory. She weaves in her own journalistic research of the history of skin grafting and other intellectual curiosities related to her experience.
Marcia Meier’s flesh displays in this book and everyday as the most public part of the body – the face – is the object. She starts each chapter with surgeon’s notes. She titles her chapters with carnal language such as: lacerations, eyelashes, exposed, and suture.
Marica Meier’s spirit is rebellious. She makes her own decisions on who to forgive, how, and when. And who not. Her painful recollections of Catholic school made me squirm – the abuse and humiliation. Her life improved when she started pubic school. As a teenager she declared no more surgeries. She even messed up the final surgery because she was instructed to hold still for a few days following the procedure. Instead she spent time with friends and laughed a lot, far from keeping her face still. I love that she chose to laugh.
A powerful interplay of the mind-body-spirit connection is offered by Marcia Meier through the verbatim of a counseling session, when her counselor Michael helped her understand that the accident was not her fault:
“Why do you think the accident happened?”
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Whose fault was it?”
“Obviously the guy who hit me,” I say.
He smiled. “Yes, that’s true. But shy did he hit you?”
“He was blind in his left eye. He didn’t see me.”
“Uh-huh. But why didn’t he see you?”
“I don’t know…Maybe it was meant to happened,” I say.
“Why?” … “Do you believe in fate?
“I don’t know. I don’t think things happened because God wills it, like its pre-ordained.”
“Do you think you could have prevented it?”
I pause. My mom’s words drift back to me.
“If I hadn’t walked into the crosswalk. . .”
You think you could have topped the car?”
“I should have seen it.”
“Say you had. How quickly do you think you could have gotten out the way? You were in the middle of the crosswalk.”
I couldn’t have gotten out of the way. No one could have.
It was not my fault.
It was not my fault!
Do you believe in God? Michael asked me. (61-62)
Dear reader, I’ll leave it there as a cliffhanger. There’s no way I can do justice to Marica Meier’s answer to this question or the remainder of the book – but Marica Meier certainly does. She has transformed her horrendous childhood experience into art. Her book dedication reads: For anyone who has ever suffered as a Wounded Child. And for Kendall, who fills up my heart.
Our stories are our own. We need not compare or contrast one trauma with another. Marcia Meier’s experience is hers. Your experience is yours. They are all valid in and of themselves. I think all of our stories have healing properties, especially when they are offered with so much sincerity and grace, as this one is. Thank you Marcia Meier.
For more information about author Marcia Meier and her book Face: A Memoir, please visit www. marciameier.com.