Afternoon Book Club
New Life, No Instructions
“Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway. About second chances, and how they’re sometimes buried amid the dross, even when you’re poised for the downhill grade. The narrative can always turn out to be a different story from what you expected” -- Gail Caldwell
Readers expressed mixed feelings about this book. They discussed it parts and not as a whole story. The part about the author’s rehab and recovery from a hip replacement took up most of the discussion. It prompted responses from readers about their own experiences with hip replacement surgery and recovery from serious illness. Readers also remembered that polio was a serious threat to their generation and spoke of direct experience with friends and relatives who contracted it.
This memoir is a story of love and devotion. The author’s parents dedicated their lives to her and treating the effects of polio. Caldwell’s circle of friends is a testament to her strong character and true friendship. They supported her throughout her life in Cambridge without hesitation. Caldwell’s love for her dogs Clementine and Tula impressed readers. They were amazed at the attention and care she gave them despite her long and difficult recovery.
Readers decided that this was just not a story about a woman and her dogs but also about how Gail Caldwell dealt with a dramatic change in her life, endured and persevered and went on to forge a new beginning with her family and friends, past and present.
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so for that pleasure…And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh! And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.
Have you read New Life, No Instructions? What did you think? Please share your thoughts in comments.