NOTE: Books mentioned in Quest usually can be ordered through local bookstores or online. Reviewed books are not available through MDA.
Waking — A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, by Matthew Sanford, 2006, 253 pages, $14.95, Rodale, www.rodale.com, (800) 848-4735
At age 13, Matt Sanford was involved in an auto accident that killed his father and sister, and left him paralyzed from the chest down. From then until age 25, he believes he was crippled not by his paralysis, but by doctors who advised him his lower body was something to be mentally abandoned and forgotten.
In his mid-20s, Sanford discovered yoga, and with it what he terms, “the transformative and healing potential of connecting mind and body.”
Waking is Sanford’s brutally honest, intensely personal and philosophical journey inside not only the mind, but also the body, heart and soul of a young man whose world has been devastated. In reconstructing his life, he describes his rejection of traditional medicine and the embrace of yoga that revealed his inner capacity for survival, acceptance, grace and healing.
The book follows the author’s growth into manhood and his role as a husband and father, bearing out his contention that, “healing is possible, even when curing is not.”
My Two Sons: Those Precious and Memorable Years. Our Struggles Through Muscular Dystrophy, by Rosemarie Walrath, 2007, 198 pages, $16.95, plus $3.50 S&H to the author at 26802 Circle of the Oaks, Newhall, Calif., 91321, firstname.lastname@example.org, (661) 251-9198
It’s readily apparently that a great deal of emotional effort went into this self-published autobiography, which describes how the author and her two sons, both of whom had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, weathered health and legal crises, as well as a succession of husbands, over a period of several decades.
About half of the book is made up of newspaper clippings about the two young men, copies of letters from well-wishers, and examples of court petitions and attorneys’ letters when the family took legal action against health care providers.
Readers share the author’s innermost thoughts as she struggles to cope with the tumult of events in the family’s life. Of her sons, Walrath says simply, “We are always together.”
Walrath is donating a portion of book sales to MDA.
Opportunities, by David L. Whitaker, 2008, 146 pages, $15.95, Aardvark Global Publishing, www.aardvarkglobalpublishing.com, (800) 614-3578.
David Whitaker was born with a congenitally deformed foot, became diabetic at age 13 and learned he had Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease when he was 18. Despite his physical challenges, he taught high school math and science for 24 years, and managed to have a lot of fun along the way.
“I have never considered myself a writer,” he says. But friends and associates urged him to write about aspects of his life, and he obliged them with this self-published collection.
Among the short topics (some of them only a page long) that Whitaker addresses are leaping from trees with bed sheet parachutes, rappelling off steep cliffs on tribal lands under the watchful eye of Native American officials, the apparent ability of loons to fly underwater and, as a youngster, sitting nervously on 800 pounds of high explosives.
“There is no need to read them all at once, or in any order, as most of them are not related,” he says of his recollections. Readers accustomed to logical story lines may find Whitaker’s sequencing unusual, but his humor interesting.
He Walks Like a Cowboy — One Man’s Journey Through Life with a Disability, by Jonah Berger, 2007, 108 pages, $12.95, iUniverse, www.iuniverse.com, (800) 288-4677
“I wanted to inspire individuals with disabilities, especially children and young adults, and let them know that a life lived with a disability can be a life lived joyfully and with passion,” says Berger, who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
He also says he hopes the book will change people’s perceptions about disabled individuals.
Walks like a Cowboy does just that. It’s a memorable sequence of Berger’s experiences, from learning the truth of CMT’s effects as a young boy playing baseball, through summer camp (where he admits, for the first time, the fact of his illness to a friend), to a grueling 163-mile bike ride, wearing leg braces.
A novel and notable aspect of the book is a section in which Berger asked his close associates to write about their experiences in knowing him — their perceptions of his disease and of him as a person.
“I walk with feet of dead weight. I walk by raising my leg and flopping my feet down,” Berger relates. That may indeed resemble the gait of cowboys who’ve spent many years in the saddle, but then — most everyone loves a cowboy.