Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Intriguing premise, yet falls flat
on November 6, 2008
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. Readers might appreciate a bit of background about the former president in order to gain more context about the illness and Warm Springs itself, but Shreve uses a significant chunk of her book talking about the life of Roosevelt -- giving the distinct impression of unsuccessfully searching for filler material.
If I wanted a biography of Roosevelt, I would have sought one...