WINGS AND ROOTS by Susan Terris


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Jeannie and Kit, both 14, speak to each other in similes, and they both write poetry. His is anguished, anonymous, lower-case prose-poetry that ""tugs at her"" before she knows him. Hers is as self-absorbed though more composed, and pretentiously banal. Both are abysmal. They meet when she is a summer volunteer in the hospital and he is a bitter polio victim--one of the last wave, as the Salk vaccine has just been approved. She finds his anonymous compositions, signed ""Yeti,"" stuck here and there on the hospital's walls. She helps him overcome his resistance to exercising his legs, but their sharp exchanges often end in breakups. They have an on-and-off friendship over the next few years--he returns to high school, walking but lame, and Yeti's notes show up in her desk and locker--and for a while the relationship blossoms into romance, as they kiss in an elevator oblivious to the other passengers. But they continue to goad each other and in the end they part, dear friends. Meanwhile he pushes her, pushes himself to climb rocks, sheds crutches and braces until his walk is almost normal, and takes up photography, jazz, and politics as well as climbing. (These last developments we observe, with her, from their intermittent contact.) There is much talk about wings (his) and roots (hers) and every limit being a beginning, which she turns into a parting poem as dreadful as the rest. Alas, Terris herself reveals no maturer sensibility or style.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux