A woman stricken with polio-borne limitations shares her physical and emotional challenges.
By the time she was 4, Lambert (The River’s Memory, 2014) required two surgeries and two body casts. In this memoir, she retraces the years when the struggle against loneliness and isolation at times became more disabling than polio’s assault on her spine and legs. With frank, lyrical prose, the author describes a painful, awkward youth in Norway as she became reliant on the bracing “contraption put on my legs at night that was supposed to untwist my bones.” Once her military family relocated back to America, she sought solace alone on the forest floor beneath a canopy of foliage and refracted sunlight. Lambert chronicles her high school years trying to appear “normal,” whatever that word means, and also delicately addresses the dual struggle of her physical disability coupled with her emerging sexuality and a reliance on alcohol to calm the residual anger, bitterness, and depression experienced after a relationship deteriorated. Lambert describes uncomfortable incidents in her 30s—e.g., navigating a public laundry facility where gawking, intrusive onlookers called her “so inspiring” or the ordeal of boarding a packed airplane. “There’s a mute button in my head for these moments,” writes the author. “I push it.” More positive events include the author’s camping trips in Florida and kayaking in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Lambert makes beautifully palpable the exquisite liberation she finally experienced when exchanging her braces and crutches for a manual (and then automatic) wheelchair. Each of these recollections is unhurriedly told and expressed with true introspection; the author knows herself well and shares thoughts, feelings, and impressions with grace and acute self-awareness. Readers will come away with a cleareyed portrait of the author through the stories of her joys, sorrows, and intimate impressions.
A powerful testimony to the determination and strength necessary to persevere despite assumptions, scrutiny, and societal stigmatization.