Starting over:

Sarah Scantlin, 38, has begun reconnecting with her life after lying in a nursing home bed, unable to speak, for 20 years. Her family and doctors say she emerged from her long unresponsive state thinking it was still the 1980s. She had been struck by a drunken driver in 1984 at age 18. Omar Beidari, 21, gained consciousness last month, remembering nothing of his life before Jan. 12, when he was pushed from a car and suffered head injuries that caused amnesia.

The stories are riveting on two levels: the joy of families reuniting and the pain of people trying to emerge from black holes where memory has been erased. In 1984 Ronald Reagan was about to be elected to his second term. The economic bubble had not yet swelled. The Berlin Wall was still intact, and apartheid still ruled South Africa. Starting small with family matters could be just as jolting, given the births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and shifts in a familial landscape that can occur in 20 years. Not knowing is like being invisible in today’s culture of branding and self-absorption. People have everything analysed and labelled.

Scantlin and Beidari do not have that tenacious grip on details. Were it not for their hardship, that might be refreshing. They are focused mainly in the present, poised for discovery, holding few preconceptions — and that’s a healthy way for anyone to meet the world. — The Boston Globe