Announcing our Top 20 Books of 2022

Excerpt from Warm Springs by Susan Richards Shreve, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Warm Springs

Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven

by Susan Richards Shreve

Warm Springs by Susan Richards Shreve X
Warm Springs by Susan Richards Shreve
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2008, 240 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Traces

I’m sitting with my legs straight out on an examining table at the Georgia Warm Springs Polio Foundation, where I have just arrived. Four doctors lean over my legs, their elbows on the table, talking back and forth. The doctors are looking for traces.

Traces are little whispers of life in muscles destroyed by the polio virus. They promise the possibility of a new future. My part in this examination, not the first in my life with polio, is to concentrate with all my might on each muscle, one at a time, in the hope that with my undivided attention, there will be a shiver of response and the doctors will rise up, smiling, and announce that the audition has been a success and there is reason for hope.

Muscle to muscle, trace to trace, I am looking for a sign of possibility.

At Warm Springs, traces is the word for hope. When I think of the word “traces” now, it is as a footprint or a shadow or a verb, like “unearth” or “expose” or “reveal.”

I’ve been looking for traces in my childhood that will bring the years I spent in Warm Springs into some kind of focus. In its intention, the process is very much the same as it was when I lived there and turned my attention to discovering what remained.


Warm Springs, 1952
On the morning Joey Buckley got his wheelchair back, got to leave his bed and move about the hospital grounds alone, I had been up at dawn, before the Georgia sun turned the soft air yellow as butter. I lived in the eighth bed in a sixteen-bed ward of girls at the Warm Springs Polio Foundation and had been living there, off and mostly on, since I was eleven years old. That morning, at the beginning of April, I was wide awake with plans to slip out of the room without any of the fifteen other girls knowing I was gone until they woke to the rancid smell of grits and eggs to see my empty bed carefully made.

I was wearing blue jeans, cut up the seam so they’d fit around my leg cast, a starchy white shirt with the collar up, a red bandanna tied around my neck like Dale Evans, my hair shoulder length, in a side part, the June Allyson bangs swept up in a floppy red grosgrain bow. A cowgirl without the hat and horse, a look I cultivated, boy enough to be in any company.

I wheeled past Avie Crider on the first bed, lying on her left side, her right leg hanging in traction above her hip, a kidney-shaped throw-up pan by her cheek. She’d come out of surgery the day before, screaming all night, but we were used to that in one another and could sleep through noises of pain and sadness, or talk through them, about movies and boyfriends and sex and God, back and forth across the beds. Never pain and sadness.

I shut the door. The Girls’ Ward (called Ward 8 by the staff), on the second floor of Second Medical, was at one end of a long hall, and the Boys’ Ward was at the other end. The long corridor, with the nurses’ station between the wards, was empty at dawn, too early for the smell of breakfast, for the morning nursing staff to click up and down the corridors with trays of thermometers and medicines, even for the bedpans, which were my responsibility.

I wanted to go straight to the Boys’ Ward, where Joey Buckley might be waiting for me, but it was too early for that also, too early for mail, which was my other job, or for orderlies to take the surgery patients down to the first-floor pre-op waiting room, or for the domestic staff to begin mopping the linoleum for a new day. Too early for anything but the Babies’ Ward (officially called the Children’s Ward), where I went every afternoon to take the babies in my lap for a wheelchair spin around the walkways, pretending they were mine for keeps, these orphan babies whose parents were off in their own houses in other towns, like my parents three hundred long miles away in Washington. These babies couldn’t do without me.

Copyright © 2007 by Susan Richards Shreve. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Poliomyelitis

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Our Missing Hearts
    by Celeste Ng

    From the author of Little Fires Everywhere, a new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Cradles of the Reich
by Jennifer Coburn
Three women, a nation seduced by a madman, and the Nazi breeding program to create a so-called master race.
Who Said...

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.