WARM SPRINGS by Susan Richards Shreve

My friend Amy from LeShallowGal (one of my favorite blogs) recently recommended a book to me: Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR's Polio Haven, by Susan Richards Shreve. Shreve is a Washington, DC-based writer and I've seen reviews and displays of this book around, but hadn't really focused on it. Sounds like it's a compelling history lesson combined with a poignant coming-of-age story – what more could you want?

From Amazon:

Shreve Novelist Shreve recollects her years spent from ages 11 to 13 at Warm Springs Polio Foundation in Georgia: "Traces are little whispers of life in muscles destroyed by the polio virus." The traces of this eloquently written memoir, however, are not merely physical; they are the whispers of the time, brief glimpses into the social climate of the 1950s, into the religious longing of a lonely young girl hoping for a connection, into the mindset of the president who led the country despite a debilitating handicap. While the events take place as Shreve recovers from surgeries that would allow her to walk better, polio becomes a minor character; her friendships with the others in the facility, her innocent romance with a fellow patient and her growing attraction to the priest take center stage as she tries to make herself into a "good" girl:

From the N.Y. Times review of Warm Springs:

Shreve is a novelist who has approached her story with a reporter’s eye. She has done her research on polio and Warm Springs, weaving the history of this once-dread disease unobtrusively into her own. But it is the due diligence she has done on her own young self — re-examining the girl she was from the perspective of the woman she has become (“the truth of this story is in the way I see it now”) and fitting that girl back into a time and a place a half-century gone — that distinguishes Warm Springs from so many of the vertical-pronoun bores arriving at bookstores these days.

You can hear or watch Susan Shreve talking to WGBH about Warm Springs here.

Interesting: Susan Shreve is the mother of Porter Shreve, whose book Drives Like A Dream I reviewed here.

2 Comments

  • Kiki
    August 13, 2008 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I am reading this now after seeing it here–just got it from the library yesterday. I stopped by Warm Springs a few weeks ago, but was unable to visit–too late in the day. So i was excited to see this book! I hope to get back and visit the Little White House and the Springs soon. I am loving the book–great writing and wonderful voice!

  • Kiki
    August 18, 2008 - 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Just checking in! I finished this one last night and it was a wonderful memoir. I gave it to my 12 year old daughter to read. Another great book–thanks, Gayle!

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