A rich and moving memoir of childhood illness and its aftermath by a member of the last generation of Americans to have experienced childhood polio.
Just after her eleventh birthday, at the height of the frightening childhood polio epidemic, Susan Richards Shreve was sent as a patient to the sanitarium at Warm Springs, Georgia. It was a place famously founded by FDR, "a perfect setting in time and place and strangeness for a hospital of crippled children."
There the young Shreve met Joey Buckley, a thirteen-year-old in a wheelchair who desperately wants to play football for Alabama. The shock of first love and of separation from her fiercely protective mother propels Shreve on a careening course from Warm Springs bad girl to overachieving saint and back again. This indelible portrait of the psychic fallout of childhood illness ends -- like Tobias Wolff's Old School -- with a shocking collision between adolescent drive and genteel institution.
During Shreve's stay at Warm Springs, the Salk vaccine was developed, an event that put an end to a harrowing time for American families. Shreve's memoir is both a fascinating historical record of that time and an intensely felt story of childhood.
A riveting, raw, miscellany of memories from a bygone era that seems much longer ago than it is - a snapshot of a time and place, and the challenge of living with pain, guilt and loneliness. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Entertainment Weekly - Michelle Kung
[W]hile Shreve shares some truly raw recollections, she haphazardly mixes them with typical adolescent anecdotes (sneaking into the boys' ward, crushing on an Irish priest) and erratic historical footnotes, dulling her tale's emotional punch. Grade B.
Chicago Tribune - Alyce Miller
What makes this memoir remarkable is the range of subjects Shreve juggles, including an intriguing history of Warm Springs and Roosevelt's role there, as she places her own experience in the context of '50s America. This book is as much about a time and place as it is about the struggles of a fascinating young woman to know and accept herself.
Booklist - Donna Chavez
Her recollections of the period, the facility, and its staff evoke a time when the U.S. was desperate for solutions to the raging polio pandemic. An appealing memoir and a significant snapshot of an era.
The writing of this beautifully told story is delicate and precise, even as she calls into question her own memories.
This is a moving portrait of a girl on the cusp of adolescence dealing with pain, guilt and loneliness.
David Oshinksy, author of Polio: An American Story
Susan Shreve's Warm Springs is a gem of a book— an elegantly
written, achingly powerful memoir of childhood illness in the terrifying
era of polio. Shreve is more than a storyteller; she’s a master at
combining history and remembrance in ways that make her characters come
alive. Three words best describe Warm Springs: riveting, honest,
Kathryn Harrison author of The Kiss and The Mother Knot
What happens when a fleet and willing - willful - spirit finds herself with a body inadequate to her energy and ambition? In the case of Susan Richard Shreve, a writer was born. One of the last generation of Americans to suffer polio, Shreve reveals how inextricably entwined are our strengths and weaknesses, and that freedom can be as much a state of mind as of circumstance. A lovely book, by a passionate and gallant human being.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Nancy More than I expected I am being drawn into this wonderful memoir page by page, thought by thought. It's a treasure of a story, about so much more than polio! Susan Richards Shreve is new to me as an author, but I know I will be reading more of her books.
commonly known as Polio,is a viral
disease that has plagued humans
since ancient times. It is
transmitted primarily through
direct fecal-oral contact.
However, it can also be
transmitted by indirect contact
with infectious saliva or feces
or by contaminated sewage or
In over 90% of cases
there are no symptoms but in
those who show symptoms the
illness takes three forms:
Abortive polio in which people
experience mild flu-like
symptoms; a more serious form
called nonparalytic polio in
which a person experiences
sensitivity to light and neck
stiffness; and then there is the
severe, debilitating form known
as paralytic polio in which the
virus leaves the intestinal
This witty and lovingly told memoir takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period--people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.
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