Rebuilding a Brick Wall

17 November 2021

Rebuilding a Brick Wall
by Susanne Gauthier with Evan Wall
Published by DriverWorks Ink
Review by Toby A. Welch
$17.95 ISBN 9781927570654

This book opens with a bang. We are immediately transported to the scene of the severe car accident that left Evan Wall with a traumatic brain injury at the age of nineteen. From there we delve into Evan’s life in Shellbrook, a tiny town forty-five kilometres west of Prince Albert. He was an avid football player – “football was my life” – and looked forward to hanging with his buddies on the weekends. 

Once the backstory is done, we jump to the summer of 2016. After a night of partying in Canwood, Evan hitched a ride back to Shellbrook from a friend of a friend. Around four a.m. on July 30th, an animal on the road caused the driver to swerve. The truck hit a raised shoulder bank and flipped into the ditch. The seatbelt-wearing driver was uninjured. Evan was not wearing his seatbelt and was ejected through the rear window, landing ten feet away. Paramedics intubated Evan at the scene and he survived despite the odds. He was suffering from DAI, diffuse axonal injury; the connecting fibres in his brain (axons) were sheared due to his brain shaking around so hard in his skull. Evan spent two weeks in the ICU before even opening his eyes. 

From there, the hurdles Evan tackled seemed insurmountable at times – but he never gave up. The stories of his ongoing rehabilitation and the struggles he went through are astonishing.

Pictures of Evan, his family, and his life are spread throughout the book. They add to the story, helping us put faces to the names we read about. My favourite pic is a shot of Evan in the pool with his swim therapist. He is sporting an Iron Maiden t-shirt while his face shows a glimmer of hope. 

I’ve met people who’ve suffered brain injuries and I had no clue what they went through in their daily life. My empathy and compassion grew with every chapter that I read. I loved when Evan shared in chapter seventeen that the isolation that most people are feeling these days thanks to COVID-19 is very similar to how disabled people feel day in and day out, every day of their lives. At the back of the book you’ll find traumatic brain injury statistics in Canada. The information is simultaneously fascinating and heartbreaking.

After meeting Evan at the gym and hearing about his ordeal, Susanne Gauthier was moved to help Evan inspire others with his story. The book is written from Evan’s point of view, not as if from an outsider looking into his life. This lends to an intimacy that makes the narrative even more engrossing. Gauthier, a Saskatoon resident, does a phenomenal job of bringing Evan’s story to life in Rebuilding a Brick Wall.


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