HORIZONTAL WOMAN by Suzanne E. Berger


The Story of a Body in Exile
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 A woman with a temporary but grievous disability reveals with bitterness, insight, and humor what it is to be immobile and horizontal in a world of the mobile and vertical. This first book of nonfiction by Berger, an award-winning poet (These Rooms and Legacies, not reviewed), is filled with the vivid images one expects from a writer with a poet's eye. While in the prime of life she suffered a sudden, severe injury that left her unable to sit or stand for more than brief moments. In mostly short essays on disability, personal relationships, isolation, confinement, and recovery (the piece on aquatic therapy appeared in slightly different form in the ``Hers'' column of the New York Times Magazine), she tells of her success at making Christmas cookies on the kitchen floor, of a disastrous evening at a theater that could not or would not accommodate the lawn chair she planned to recline in, of her inability to attend a family funeral, of checking into a rehabilitation hospital that she believes may be her last hope. Although she touches on various aspects of her daily existence as a disempowered woman, the central theme is her struggle to be a good mother to the daughter who was only a toddler when disaster struck. She shares her fears about not being able to protect her child from harm, her feelings when she is left behind on father-daughter outings, her joy at finally being able to take her daughter on a simple shopping trip. In the final chapters, ten years have passed and Berger is once again vertical, but it is clear that the horizontal woman she was is forever a part of her persona. Although Berger is a skilled writer, her overuse of italics for emphasis suggests that she doubts her own ability to communicate adequately. She should have more faith: This is a moving testament.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-72668-9
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996