FLYING LESSONS by Joan Grady-Fitchett


On the Wings of Parkinson's Disease
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Banal memoirs of woman who for the past 17 years has lived with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic neurological condition that affects movement, speech, and sometimes mental functioning. At age 47, Grady-Fitchett, a physically active woman, began experiencing the first symptoms: stiffness in her left arm and loss of dexterity in her left hand, Her clichÇ-ridden account of her life before and after diagnosis is divided into 63 “entries,” of which 54 are brief chapters of flat prose and 9 are much briefer, inoffensive poems. She tells sketchily of her first three marriages and divorces, her career as a model, and her entry into the Florida real-estate business. In the late 1970s, as her third marriage was ending, she bought a farm near Asheville, N.C. She moved there in 1983, stocked it with assorted animals, and lived there mostly alone until after her fourth marriage in 1990. Her strong-willed efforts to live independently on the farm and to care for her beloved horses, geese, and other creatures constitute a substantial portion of her memoirs, although there is mention of her creative-writing class and a short account of a legal squabble involving some Florida property. After 1991, the focus shifts to management of her gradually deteriorating health. She seeks advice from various doctors, tries various medications, and ultimately opts for a fetal-tissue transplant, in which tissue from an aborted fetus is implanted in the brain. In the book’s final entries, she tells of undergoing a battery of tests at the University of Colorado, where the surgery is to be performed. However, she has curiously chosen to end her memoirs while still awaiting the risky and experimental procedure that, if successful, could greatly improve her condition but, if unsuccessful, could leave her much worse off. Neither engaging nor informative; in fact, forgettable.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-86490-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


by Corey D. King