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Thursday, January 27, 2011

V.V.B.C.-Breath: A Lifetime in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung: A Memoir by Martha Mason

Vicarious Virtual Book Club:
A Lifetime in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung: A Memoir by Martha Mason

I'm going to go ahead and post blogs for the first 4 books of this year, so people will have a place to post comments. That way, people can go ahead and read what they want, choose the corresponding blog, and participate in discussions, either publicly, or vicariously anonymously! I've had e-mails and calls that some of you are either participating, or considering "joining." I hope lots of you will jump in and post, so others will be inspired to do the same.

I will be putting the abbreviation V.V.B.C. in front of each title, to make them easier to find in my archives. This book doesn't much need for a "SPOILER" warning, since it's a non-fiction memoir, but, please be sensitive to what details you share!

Breath was nominated by Sisterchick Book Club Member Sheron Womack, and it was our January Book Club Selection. Sheron gave us a lot of interesting background information from her internet research about polio, and about famous people who were either personally affected by polio, or had one or more family members who had the disease. (A few were: Donald Sutherland, Jack Nicklaus, Mia Farrow, Alan Alda, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Dinah Shore. Click here for more info.)

Sheron posted links to a couple of videos about Breath author, Martha Mason, which helped give voice and context to the book. After seeing Sheron's video, I, along with several other Sisterchicks, watched other videos about Martha, and similar polio victims, on Youtube, prior to coming to our discussion at Starbucks.

The following video shows the iron lung "breathing" for Martha, and you can hear the sounds. One of the comments at book club was someone remembering hearing about how noisy the hospital wards were when they had multiple patients lined up in iron lungs.

The majority of our book club members remembered getting polio shots when we were children, and/or getting the oral vaccine, in the mid-to late 50's and early 60's. A number of us had friends and family members who had been affected by polio, and it was interesting to hear about that.

I believe it was pretty much universally agreed upon, by out group, that reading about Martha's "situation," of living in an iron lung for 60 years, pretty much put all of our own "situations" in perspective! Several people said there was "no way" they could have lived like that. Everyone agreed we certainly wouldn't want to!

We also agreed that Martha's acceptance of her situation, her hunger for knowledge, and her inquisitiveness, and thoughtfulness toward her friends, made it work for her.

We discussed whether or not living in a small town was a large part of Martha's being able to thrive in her situation. Neighbors and friends definitely helped carry the load.

We discussed the indignities Martha had to suffer daily, in terms of personal hygiene, and bodily functions. We discussed "day to day" activities, and how Martha strived to be as normal as possible.

We discussed familial relationships, and how Martha's role changed, as most of ours will, from being the child of a parent, to being a parent of an increasingly childlike parent. We discussed why we thought Martha structured her book the way she did--she didn't start with her childhood.

I almost forgot to say that Martha's writing style is engaging, easy to read, and very precise and enjoyable. She's got a great vocabulary, and is very well-read. I loved the quotes and examples she used from different authors.

This is another book that I, most likely, would not have chosen to read. I am ABSOLUTELY glad I read it! It served to change my perspective on lots of things! Bottom line affirmation--Faith, People, and Relationships are the ONLY TRULY IMPORTANT "things" in our lives!

Sisterchicks: set me straight if you need to! Vicarious Virtual Book Club friends: Y'all all jump on in with comments, questions, and/or observations!
P.S. I just found this Wikipedia post. The book club thought Martha had lived in the iron lung longer than anyone....
On the 30th of October 2009, June Middleton of Melbourne, Australia who had been entered in the Guinness book of records as the person who spent the longest time in an iron lung died aged 83.[11]

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