Just after her eleventh birthday, Susan Richards Shreve was sent to the sanitarium at Warm Springs, Georgia. The polio haven, famously founded by FDR, was a perfect setting in time and place and strangeness for a hospital of crippled children.” During Shreve’s two year stay, the Salk vaccine would be discovered, ensuring that she would be among the last Americans to have suffered childhood polio.
At Warm Springs, Shreve found herself in a community of similarly afflicted children, and for the first time she was one of the gang. Away from her fiercely protective mother, she became a feisty troublemaker and an outspoken ringleader. Shreve experienced first love with a thirteen-year-old boy in a wheelchair. She navigated rocky friendships, religious questions, and family tensions, and encountered healing of all kinds. Shreve’s memoir is both a fascinating historical record of that time and an intensely felt story of childhood.
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 selfre-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 gonethat distinguishes Warm Springs from so many of the vertical-pronoun bores arriving at bookstores these days.