A potently straightforward account of how Brooke Ellison managed to attend a mainstream public school and graduate from Harvard after being struck by a car and paralyzed from the neck down at age 11.
Unfolding the story in alternating chapters, Brooke and her mother, Jean, begin their account the day of the accident, Brooke’s first day of junior high school. Brooke was expected to die from her injuries; her spinal cord was severed and she was in a coma for days. When she regained consciousness, she had lost all control of her body from the neck down, but her parents were determined to give their child as normal a life as possible. That meant finding a way for Brooke to attend the local public school. In what would come to be standard practice in the Ellison household, Jean accompanied her daughter to school when adequate nursing wasn’t available. Mother saw daughter through junior high and high school, and when Brooke was accepted to Harvard, the two moved to Cambridge together. Employing a matter-of-fact tone, mother and daughter run through the challenges faced over the years: grappling with a school board unwilling to provide aides, finding ways to study when Brooke could not write, or turn the pages of a book, dealing with the awkwardness of Brooke’s longing for a romantic connection while she was imprisoned in a body that would not respond and had to be monitored at all times by her mother. The story’s power does not come from its style or elegance or the philosophizing of the Ellison women—although they surely were strengthened by their faith—but from the revelation of just how compromised a quadriplegic body is and how much dedication and strength of mind are necessary to get that body through a normal day.
A tribute to the remarkable strength of a family in the face of disaster.