Limbo: A Memoir

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Harper Collins, Mar 17, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 288 pages

From childhood, acclaimed novelist A. Manette Ansay trained to become a concert pianist. But when she was nineteen, a mysterious muscle disorder forced her to give up the piano, and by twenty-one, she couldn't grip a pen or walk across a room. She entered a world of limbo, one in which no one could explain what was happening to her or predict what the future would hold.

At twenty-three, beginning a whole new life in a motorized wheelchair, Ansay made a New Year's resolution to start writing fiction, rediscovering the sense of passion and purpose she thought she had lost for good.

Thirteen years later, still without a firm diagnosis or prognosis, Ansay reflects on the ways in which the unraveling of one life can plant the seeds of another, and considers how her own physical limbo has challenged—in ways not necessarily bad—her most fundamental assumptions about life and faith.

Luminously written, Limbo is a brilliant and moving testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lahochstetler - LibraryThing

This is a moving memoir about what happens when illness steals the most important thing in your life. Ansay spend her youth planning to become a concert pianist. In college she was incapacitated by a ... Read full review

LIMBO: A Memoir

User Review  - Kirkus

After four novels (Vinegar Hill, 1994, etc.) and one story collection, Ansay debuts in nonfiction with a thoughtful memoir of affliction and redemption.Ansay trained throughout childhood and ... Read full review

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Page 13 - The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
Page 43 - But what if your story shapes itself differently? What if there is no climax, no resolution, only the passing days, the paralyzing uncertainty, the gradually dawning sense that, regardless of what happens next, you will never return to the country you have left, to the body you once took for granted? What if things simply happen because they do, and then you pick yourself up, or not? What kind of stow is that?
Page 63 - You taught me to be nice, so that now I am so full of niceness, I have no sense of right and wrong, no outrage, no passion. "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," you said, so I am very quiet, which most people think is politeness.
Page 11 - Yet there's no sense, as I run, that I'm re-creating something, repainting this landscape as if by numbers, filling in color and sound. I'm simply here, I'm home, and any return to the present will be informed by what I've seen.
Page 10 - I have been permanently shaped — and am still held fast — by landscapes that exist in memory alone, though this makes them no less real when they come to me in dreams, when fragments are triggered by a random fact or phrase.
Page 43 - ... rack. Each begins with an inciting incident: a mysterious seizure, a freak accident, an inexplicable symptom. This is followed by rising action: the trip to the emergency room, visits to specialists, moments of doubt and despair. Finally, there is a climax: the surgery or treatment, everything touch...
Page 89 - ANCIENT HISTORY I hope the old Romans Had painful abdomens. I hope that the Greeks Had toothache for weeks. I hope the Egyptians Had chronic conniptions. I hope that the Arabs Were bitten by scarabs. I hope that the Vandals Had thorns in their sandals. I hope that the Persians Had gout in all versions. I hope that the Medes Were kicked by their steeds. They started the fuss And left...
Page 266 - writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best...
Page 266 - But I do believe that each of us has the ability to decide how we'll react to the random circumstances of our lives, and that our reactions can shape future circumstances, affect opportunities, open doors.

About the author (2009)

A. Manette Ansay is the author of eight books, including Vinegar Hill, Midnight Champagne (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Blue Water. She has received the Pushcart Prize, two Great Lakes Book Awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Miami.

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