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Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven Paperback – June 10, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547053835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547053837
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,089,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist Shreve recollects her years spent from ages 11 to 13 at Warm Springs Polio Foundation in Georgia: "Traces are little whispers of life in muscles destroyed by the polio virus." The traces of this eloquently written memoir, however, are not merely physical; they are the whispers of the time, brief glimpses into the social climate of the 1950s, into the religious longing of a lonely young girl hoping for a connection, into the mindset of the president who led the country despite a debilitating handicap. While the events take place as Shreve recovers from surgeries that would allow her to walk better, polio becomes a minor character; her friendships with the others in the facility, her innocent romance with a fellow patient and her growing attraction to the priest take center stage as she tries to make herself into a "good" girl: "I remember reading once," she writes, "about the strange attractor, a star that unsettles planetary balance, which was the role I seemed to play in our family life." The writing of this beautifully told story is delicate and precise, even as she calls into question her own memories: "we lived in a kind of maze, a finely spun fairy tale created by my parents in which some things were clear and some were fuzzy.... I assumed that what I saw was true. I didn't realize until I was older that seeing is a matter of choice." (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It's hard to tell whether Shreve's affecting book on her two years at the Warm Springs Polio Foundation is more memoir of adolescence or agonizing confession. But no matter. What is clear is that, when she entered the facility at age 11, she got off to a running start at teenage rebellion. From developing a prohibited friendship with the daughter of a black cleaning woman to sneaking into the boys' wing to, finally, the stunt that triggered her swift removal from Warm Springs, Shreve proved that a wheelchair was no hindrance to preadolescent high jinks. Despite her precipitous departure, she maintains vivid and mostly fond memories of the place and, especially, of partner-in-crime Joey Buckley and of Father James, on whom she developed a serious crush. Her recollections of the period, the facility, and its staff evoke a time when the U.S. was desperate for solutions to the raging polio pandemic. An appealing memoir and a significant snapshot of an era. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Susan Richards Shreve is the author of several novels, including A Student of Living Things and You Are the Love of My Life, as well as the memoir Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven. She has also written dozens of children's books, including The Lovely Shoes, and is the co-editor or editor of five anthologies.

Shreve founded the MFA degree at George Mason University, where she is a professor of English and present co-chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. She has also taught at Columbia School of the Arts and Princeton University for the MFA programs. Among her numerous accolades are the Guggenheim Award for Fiction, the Grub Street Prize for nonfiction, and the Service Award from Poets & Writers. She lives and writes in Washington, DC

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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It is engaging, warm, honest, and often very funny.
book lover
Susan Shreve takes her story and through her gaze helps me see what was important what is still important and how those things have changed.
Susan K. Gushue
I just read the book because it was recommended, and boy, I was glad that I did.
Mona L. Roth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mona L. Roth on June 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had no interest in Polio, or FDR. I just read the book because it was recommended, and boy, I was glad that I did. I learned about the dreadful disease, the hardships of FDR, and the outlook of one amazing girl, Susan.

Just why do some have to suffer like she did? And why do those that have to undertake such an ordeal have such a positive attitude? I think about the book often, and share my new knowledge to anyone that will listen.

Enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Mechlinski VINE VOICE on November 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
In the 1940s and early 1950s, polio epidemics spread across the United States, severely damaging the health -- and overall lives -- of many individuals, mainly children. Susan Richards, who'd been struck by the virus as a baby, was one.

At age eleven, Susan was sent to Warm Springs, a Georgia hospital and research facility where she would live among other polio patients for nearly two years. During this time, she underwent numerous painful operations as doctors struggled to help her walk and overall improve the quality of her life.

In her memoir, Shreve recalls her experiences at Warm Springs -- other children she befriended, the young priest on whom she developed a crush, her feelings of guilt over having "caused so much trouble" for her family.

While her anecdotes are overall frank and promising, the author unfortunately tends to go around in circles without much of a plot. Too many pages to count are consumed by Susan's endless jaunts throughout the hospital grounds, not really culminating in anything in particular. Frequently she sets up an element -- such as her younger brother's issues with the lifelong disruption of his nuclear family -- but fails to take it anywhere. Other times, she abruptly switches from her adolescent self to a voice clearly grown, using phrases referring to her marriage and children. This is both jarring and, again, refers to things that are never actually explained in any significant detail.

Finally, the author relies quite heavily upon the fact that Roosevelt, also a polio victim, had once stayed at Warm Springs and essentially ensured the facility's existence.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on June 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Yesterday, after listening to Susan Shreve speak on NPR's Talk of the Nation, I immediately ran out to get a copy of her new book, "Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven". A longtime "history buff" of FDR, and of particular interest in the history of Warm Springs, I hoped that Shreve's memoir would add to my knowledge of the camp through the eyes of her own experience. What I found was a deeping moving story of a girl, struggling with her condition, all the while learning about others, which in turn, she learns about herself.

Susan Shreve was diagnosed with polio at quite a young age. She is moved to Warm Springs at the tender age of 11, in which her hijinx ensues. What comes across in the book quite quickly that dear young Susan is quite an imp, impressionable, and very much a part of the scene. She engages in several adventures that had me laughing outloud, and some that were serious and reflective.

Shreve manages, in like so many memoirs, to recover a time and a place that has long since passed, but to do so in such eloquence that I found myself reading and rereading pages and paragraphs from their simple beauty of words.

To wit: "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."

The sheer elegance of her writing is precious, exact.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Betys Greenspon on June 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
I was anxious to read this book because like the author, I spent a good part of my childhood life in Warm Springs. I truly enjoyed this memoir which brought back memories and feelings of my own childhood. I laughed and cried and relived many of the author's experiences which were very similar to my own. The book is very well written and I have lent it out to friends that have not had any ties to polio, except knowing me. Everyone has enjoyed this light and entertaining reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
When I was a boy we had this lady come into my creative writing class at school, and she read to us from one of her novels. Many of us fell in love with her at first sight, and especially when she began reading the pages of her book, for her voice as many now know, is low and enchanting, the sort of voice that could launch a thousand ships. She was born a little too early to get into the phone sex business but she could have cleaned up! Now comes the tragic story of her heartwarming travails back in the late 40 and early 50s, when she was one of the "polios," as they called themselves, installed among other children in the long hot hospital they called "Warm Springs."

in little Susan's day, the specter of Franklin Roosevelt, the most famous polio victim, was ever present. His photo was in the office of the main doctor, and the little children toasted to his memory (the President had died only five years before, keeping the extent of his paralysis a top state secret, but among the stricken, he was always eager to share).

She was a difficult child born to a wonderful mother who was a top chef and did everything perfectly. Stuck in Warm Springs, her fantasy life really took off and she was forced to be the roommate of sullen, disapproving Caroline, and also she found herself a little boyfriend called "Joey Buckley," which made living in the enforced conditions of Warm Springs a bit more bearable. Her mother sent her many clippings to read, but only one book, oddly enough it was Shirley Jackson's THE LOTTERY, which Susan didn't read but Caroline did.

She had a strange but understandable passion for Father James, the hospital padre, who could make any girl forget her vows. A charming man, James had what we would call today, "charisma.
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