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Saturday, August 08, 2009

This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman


A memoir of premature motherhood

I have done my very best since day one to consistently complain and grumble about autism. Indeed I would go so far as to suggest that I have reached a certain degree of expertise on the subject, on moaning that is, rather than autism.

I remember quite clearly the moment that my world fell apart. It happened on quite an ordinarily autistic day in the park, when all of a sudden my son fell out of the play structure onto his head. As he vomited in the Emergency Room and they wheeled him away for an MRI the nurse told me to ‘brace myself.’ Instead of having an autistic child I was threatened with a replacement, a seriously physically and mentally ill child. Without question it was the most sobering moment of my life.

When the nurse returned, much, much later, she told me she had never seen anything like it, outstanding, remarkable. In all her twenty years as a nurse. He was back from the brink. I had aged a hundred years in those blank, bleak moments. I should never wish to experience anything remotely like it again, ever. After that shocking episode we went on to enjoy robust health and live happily ever after. I cannot conceive of enduring that amount of mental energy for years as Vicki Forman and her family did, when their twins Ellie and Evan were born prematurely. Not only did she experience this pain but she also wrote about it in her book “This Lovely Life.”

I found this a harrowing account of tumultuous chaos but thoroughly absorbing as a reader. It is a tribute to her outstanding and formidable writing style that her book, however ironically, is a true page turner. As a reader, we are safe in the knowledge that the experience of pain is vicarious, not real for us, surreal for her and yet we are drawn further and further in to catch a glimpse of suffering that no-one should ever have to live through. It would be tempting to describe this book as an unrelenting tale of misery but that would be both untrue and a distortion. Every time you think that things cannot get any worse, they do but that is very far from the whole picture. Somehow, by some mercurial quality, Vickie relates their triumphs with pin pricks of startling light that keep us ever hopeful.

My one criticism is a personal one. The book is sprinkled with extracts from the journal she kept during this period of her life. I do not understand why journal entries should be any more poignant than any other writings that create a book but to read those entries was somehow even more excruciating. Maybe it is because reading someone’s memoir appears to grant the reader the permission, provides justification however spurious, to be a fly on the wall, but to read lines from a diary confirms that the reader is an interloper, peeking at someone else’s privacy, a true voyeur.

That said, I should like everyone to read this book, everyone like me and everyone who is different from me, but how to make that happen?

I decided to canvas opinion, male opinion. I asked my husband, a non reader if ever there was one, what drew him to read his annual book? The last book he read was ‘Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft’ by Thor Heyerdahl. Six men on a small raft sail four thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, from Peru to the Polynesian Islands. I’m inclined to ask ‘why?’ Why set sail in a raft, a small one at that? Why write a book about it? Why would anyone want to read about it? So I ask him my ‘why’s?’
“Because it was a real life and true challenge, because the story was enthralling, absorbing, thought provoking.”
“What if they hadn’t been successful? What if they’d failed? What if the raft had sunk or someone was lost at sea? If tragedy had befallen them, would you still have read and enjoyed the book?”
“And I know why, because it’s the journey my friend, the journey and that journey will haunt me for a very long time.”

You may wish to read some more about this "book" which you may do so here at "Fully Caffeinated" where "Carrie" asks "Vicki" a few interesting, previously unasked "questions. There is also another independent interview on "Hopeful Parents" by "Christina Shaver."

p.s. There is also a brief interview of Vicki on "ABC."

1 comment:

Leightongirl said...

“And I know why, because it’s the journey my friend, the journey and that journey will haunt me for a very long time.”

Truer words were never spoken. Thank you.

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