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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2007, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2008, 240 pages

  • 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" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!