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ASA'S STORY by Gunnar Ohrlander

ASA'S STORY

A Child's Struggle, a Family's Victory Against All Odds

By Gunnar Ohrlander

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-88282-041-9
Publisher: New Horizon

 Ohrlander, Swedish journalist and playwright, takes a musing, hazy, sometimes rambling trip back to his daughter Asa's first year, in which she triumphs over cerebral palsy. The story is told in flashback by Asa, but since she was too young to have clear memories, she has supposedly gathered her information from the journals of her ``Mummy'' and ``Daddy.'' And herein lies one of the difficulties with the book--the wry observations made are ones too mature for a child of less than a year. Still, the writing is beautifully simple and crystal clear, with a childlike naivetÇ woven in. Set in late-1960's Sweden, the story begins even before Asa and her twin sister, Berit, are born. We met Gunnar, who writes revolutionary plays that a group called the ``Rabble'' performs, and his wife, a Maoist redhead with a tuft of green hair. Twins are born to them six weeks prematurely. When it becomes obvious after several months that Berit is developing normally while Asa lies in a peculiar stretched-out position, the doctors confirm the parents' fear that the child is a ``spastic.'' They decide to try a Czechoslovakian neurologist's revolutionary method of overcoming the baby's blocked movement. This ``Vojta'' method is simultaneously criticized and praised by the scientific community, and the parents agonize over whether they are doing the right thing, since opponents claim that the exercises, which allow other parts of the nervous system to take over and create normal movement by bypassing the brain, inflict extreme mental anguish upon on the child. The decision to proceed becomes even more difficult when Asa's parents see little progress. And the ending is a bit disappointing, as the story leaps from this time to five years later, with Asa able to cartwheel across the lawn but with no description offered of the time when she does start to improve. Still, a poignant recollection, rich with metaphor and irony.