Thursday, January 03, 2008

Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven by Susan Richards Shreve

Thanks to Maggie for recommending this book, which I enjoyed.

In 1951, when novelist Susan Richards Shreve was eleven years old, she was sent to Warm Springs, Georgia for the treatment of polio. Unlike some of the children who were in full-body casts or iron lungs, she was relatively mobile. Because she had contracted a milder form of polio as an infant and had recurring episodes, she could walk in an awkward manner, but at the foundation she chose a wheelchair to be like her love-at-first-sight boyfriend Joey Buckley. She tells of her two years there in Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven.

Readers might at first think that Shreve had a total lack of good sense. She excelled at getting into trouble for complete ignoring the advice or commands of adults. Several accidents could have been avoided if Shreve had not created odd situations. As a young girl, however, she seems to have had a much better understanding of her fellow patients than staff. When asked to stop agreeing with Joey that he might someday play football for the University of Alabama, she refused. She knew that the severely crippled boy needed his dreams as a source of strength.

What I find hard to imagine now is how young children were so casually separated from their families at a time when they endured painful surgeries. The kids had to support each other after their reconstructions, surgeries moving muscles to new locations in their bodies. Shreve also seems to have been able to roll into nearly any room she chose.

Shreve is best when telling about her own misadventures. Warm Springs is a must read for those who enjoyed her novels. At times humorous and always readable, it would be a good book club book for older baby-boomers who remember the time.

Shreve, Susan Richard. Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. ISBN 9780618658534.

1 comment:

maggie moran said...

Just what was she thinking, racing Joey down the hill!?!

Hey, thanks for the mention and I'm thrilled you liked the book. Hope to see ya at mid-winter. :)