Take one small child; mix with polio, an iron lung, years spent in hospitals, numerous surgeries, and an almost total loss of motor ability (but not pain). Add a dysfunctional natural family, an extended Mafia family, murder, rape, violent beatings, and a mysterious suicide, and you have the conditions and events that shaped Jan’s body and life. Amazingly, those circumstances don’t contain her real story, which is the development of her mind, her ability to make friends, build communities, and to share her happiness with others. What then are the basic components of a good life, if not health, family, mobility, safety, and independence?
Through Jan’s touching, and sometimes humorous conversation, we see exactly how her life developed into one filled with wisdom, and mindful presence. She leads a normal happy life, goes to university, falls in love, starts a couple of businesses, immerses herself in nature, and whatever appears before her. The reader becomes aware that what Jan experienced was not a disability, but the ground upon which to build a strong and compassionate mind.
Tales about Jan's caregivers offer some basic training points for attendants, and illustrate the dissonant counterpoint that can occur between caregiver and care receiver, especially in a long-term relationship. Throughout the story there are inklings of the paranormal, as well as spiritual and mystical understandings.
Put your chair back and enjoy a trip across the decades, be reminded of low (really low) technology, times of racial unrest and the feminist movement. Through it all, Jan's story illustrates how to live life to the fullest, and how best to prepare for death, by being absolutely committed to every possible moment in life. Readers are inspired to do the same. For almost anyone, something can be learned in this book.