Ten more striking essays from the remarkable author of Ordinary Time (1993) and Voice Lessons (1994). A bare-bones...

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WAIST-HIGH IN THE WORLD: A Life Among the Nondisabled

Ten more striking essays from the remarkable author of Ordinary Time (1993) and Voice Lessons (1994). A bare-bones description of Mairs's situation--she has severe multiple sclerosis that is progressively worsening, and her caretaker husband has cancer with an uncertain prognosis--might well deter the reader anxious to avoid either a depressing soap opera or a sentimental feel-good book. Happily, this is neither. ""I ask you to read this book,"" says Mairs, ""not to be uplifted, but to be lowered and steadied into what may be unfamiliar, but is not inhospitable, space."" With wit, wisdom, and candor she contemplates the body and world she inhabits. Among her concerns are sex, language, mobility, the rights of the disabled, caregiving and caretaking, euthanasia, and abortion, especially the implications for the disabled of the right to abort a fetus known to be defective. There's a certain amount of adventure here too, for which Mairs's wry tone is wonderfully apt. When she takes part in an undercover operation to gather evidence concerning a scam to bilk thousands of dollars from MS victims, truth and justice are among the losers. When she and her husband and daughter decide to take a week's vacation in New Mexico in a rental vehicle soon dubbed ""the Camper from Hell,"" the results are both poignant and comic. Perhaps the most unforgettable adventure, if one can call it that, is a day she spends alone when caretaking arrangements fall apart. Such seemingly simple tasks as taking a shower and fixing a lunch are revealed to be, for her, astonishingly intricate undertakings. At one point Mairs asserts that ""this is no piteously deprived state I'm in down here but a rich, complicated, and utterly absorbing process of immersion in whatever the world has to offer."" What she offers here is a rich, startling, and utterly absorbing view of that world.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1997

ISBN: 0807070874

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996