Author and teacher Peggy Shumaker was involved in an unexpected and terrible biking accident.  Out of that accident and her following slow recovery she has crafted a remarkable memoir---one that both examines her interactions with the medical community and her family and charts her return from disability---in short essay-like chapters, individual memories that comprise and inform her life before and after illness.  Reading these gem-like pieces, I could imagine her, in the process of recovery, having time and patience to look back at family, friends, custom and community in order to recreate who she was before and who she would be after her accident.  The longest of these "chapters" is several pages; the shortest, only a few sentences.  There is no table of contents guiding readers through the six sections of this book---and how could there be, as the book itself reflects the healing mind as it searches for continuity in the midst of disruption. 


I found this memoir to offer something totally new both in style and content.  While a tragic accident begins and shapes the narrative, always at the heartbeat of the book, it is not the only story.  The thread that draws us along is the fascinating way the author's memory unfolds in images, startling language and prose-poem-like renderings of childhood; relatives and family relations; the medical and nursing professions; marriage; society; grief and love.  This is a book that must be read front to back; taken in order, the small essays have a cumulative power and convey a rich panoply of information about a wide range of subjects from family secrets to childhood imaginings, from intensive care to scuba diving.  Perhaps a phrase from the essay "Constants" says best what this book investigates:  "The nature of so many loves, never simple, the nature of possibility" (p. 99).  This is a book that will find a wide audience, both in the literature and medicine world and beyond.  


University of Nebraska Press

Place Published

Lincoln, NE



Page Count