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.
Im 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 ...
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).
Full Review (715 words).
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 ...
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