A young polio victim wills herself to move and, years later, to remember.
In 1950, just after her 11th birthday, Susan Richards Shreve was sent to FDR’s polio rehabilitation hospital for a series of surgeries and physical therapies to reconstruct her disease-damaged right side. In Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven (Houghton Mifflin), Shreve works strands of memory the way, all those years ago, she must have worked her dormant muscles—coaxing them back to life. There is her first love, Joey Buckley, paralyzed from the waist down and determined to play football for the University of Alabama, and her first brush with Catholicism, ignited by the electric charm of the resident Irish priest and by the possibility of "a God like the wind, with sufficient force to lift a small girl into the air until she was weightless." Also, the dawning realization of how hard she strove to hide her sadness from her fragile mother, and the even more powerful recognition "in the empty vat of my chest [of] something like substance, as if I were in the process of becoming someone familiar, my own best friend traveling always at my side." Part memoir, part confession, part meditation on both polio and the president who made it a national cause, Warm Springs unflinchingly illuminates an iconic moment in American history and the ageless psychic corridors of denial, disappointment, and hope.
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, March 10, 2014
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