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Melanie: Bird With a Broken Wing

The Harried Parent's Book Club Mini-Review


Melanie: Bird With a Broken Wing
Cover image courtesy of Brookes Publishing Company

15-Word Review: A mother's memoir shares the life story of her daughter, born with severe cerebral palsy.

150-Word Review: Most special-needs parenting memoirs start out with the traumatic discovery of something wrong, followed by a familiar course of denial and diagnosis, treatments and therapies and schools tried and then tried differently, ending with the family at a point at which there has been some measure of success and some peace attained. You may wonder, as you put the book down, what happened next, and whether future events were more or less hopeful. Unlike those open-ended memoirs, Melanie tells the entire life story of a child with severe cerebral palsy, hitting all those same points but ending, abruptly and sadly, with the little girl's death at age five. Yet there's hope in the way her life inspired her mother to help other children like her, and the underlying ability found in a child many medical professionals wrote off may encourage you to trust your instincts for your own little one.

Is This Book for You?

  • It's definitely for you if: your child has similar issues to Melanie's, and you can personally relate to the things she and her mother went through.
  • It may be for you if: you enjoy reading parenting memoirs and seeing how other parents have dealt with their challenges -- in this case, in the '70s in Trinidad.
  • It may not be for you if: you will be uncomfortable with the author's honest and straightforward discussion of her feelings, especially early on as she deals with a child so different from the one she dreamed of.
  • It's definitely not for you if: reading about the death of a child on an ordinary day under circumstances that have been successful many times before will send you into a panic.

Table of Contents

  • Part I: With a Whimper ... Melanie ... Empty Hands ... The Sweet Bird ... The Dream Is Me ... Crashing ... Gargling ... Choking ... Vomiting ... In Our Hands ... "Oh, God! No!" ... The Bearer of Bad News ... Nestargel ... The Spiral Staircase ... Smiling ... Initial Assessment ... Seeing ... Interpreting ... Swallowing ... Invisible Chains ... Love and Faith ... Mummy Therapy ... A Very Sick Baby ... The Turning Point ... Sleep Feeding ... Thriving ... Naming the World ... Morning Has Broken
  • Part II: Mark ... Seeking Another View ... The Forest or the Trees? ... Joan and Wendy ... The Shade of the Immortelle ... Bobath Therapy ... A Temporary Goodbye ... "Yes!" ... Back to School ... Magnificent Helpers ... A Happy 4-Year-Old ... A New Decade ... Dynamic Reassessment ... CT Scan ... Brain Gazing ... Mercedes and Elizabeth ... The Spreading Branches of the Immortelle ... A Fairy-Tale Morning ... From Fairy Tale to Nightmare ... The Worst of Times ... The End ... She Looks All Right ... Goodbye
  • Epilogue
  • Melanie
  • References
  • Reader's Guide

Quick Quote: "I think my idea of supportive at that time was any attitude that seemed to accept unconditionally whatever attitude I displayed at any given moment. To put it less facetiously, I think I probably needed a mirror or an endless series of mirrors to my very fragmented self. The situation I was in was new and frightening, and I had to come to terms with it. Coming to terms with it meant, for me, facing and grappling with numerous aspects of myself as well as with some indisputable facts. The facts had to be accepted, and my own feelings had to be understood and then either accepted or modifed or, one might say, resolved."

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