Top positive review
“There are a lot of things you can do in a bad situation; try to choose something that doesn’t make it worse.”
December 7, 2016
Author Steven R Mailkowski is a Lecturer and Manager of Learning Technology at the University of London. Prior to that he worked in the US, mostly in Minnesota. His other occupation is writing and as this book, his debut novel, indicates, he has the gift for not only fine story telling but also a supportive coach in teaching people how to live with disabilities.
There is much to not in the subtitle of Steven’s book – ‘Bad luck took his sight. With hope and humor, my brother didn’t let it take more.’ And to translate that into the narrative that makes this book sing Steven offers insights into his brother Mike’s disability, the following is in the opening chapter and offers the flavor of both the writing and the persona of Mike: ‘Mike focused on what he could do. He could see a little. He could hear the cars and trucks, smell them in some cases. Mike could also remain calm and focus on what mattered most. Besides, his vision was supposed to fade in the next few months and years. He had to find ways to live with other people’s mobility or restrict his own. He kept walking. He started feeling a strange satisfaction. Even when his limited sight was at its lowest, he could be in an uncomfortable situation and stay rational. This was a part of blindness he hadn’t expected, an odd opportunity to be a little brave, maybe even proud. Then he felt something else, something falling out of a back pocket from his blue jeans. His folded white cane had started coming out. He thought about unfolding the long, white cane and using it. At the least, it would show others that he was blind. Mike smiled, tucked it back in, and decided that even proud people were entitled to an unwise decision or two. Besides, he was almost home and was still learning how to use the long cane without hitting people.’
Steven offers a memoiresque feeling to the synopsis- ‘Even after bad luck had taken Mike’s sight, he still enjoyed an adventure. In one of them, he helped with a ski race with blind skiers. These days, he likes to say, “You might think skiing without sight is tough, but we had the hard part, since we told them where to turn.” Then, he laughs and adds. “That meant standing on a ski slope with blind racers headed right for us.” His adventures and jokes help many people work through bad luck, not just blind folks. This book is based on real events in Portage Bay, Minnesota and begins when Mike attends a school for blind adults. A simple lesson is cooking without sight. A challenging lesson is about finding work. Mike learns that adults with low vision have a low chance of returning to work, which becomes his biggest hope. He wants to find a job again, so he can own a house again. He meets many good people at the school, but some cry more than they used to. Others laugh more, and a few compete in downhill ski racing. In this book, all of them help Mike work through bad luck and blindness.’
Fine as all of the above is, it is no match for the overall enriching experience of reading this little book cover to cover, a book so bulging in humor, determination to deal with a disability, insights, and a flag raised to the indomitable human spirit that it will change you. And after reading this book, take some time and watch some videos on Steven’s fine website. Steven Mailkowski makes a dent in our complacent psyche and offers a strong reminder of what life means and how wondrously ‘rich and strange’ is can be. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 16