"If you ask a polio victim what he wants, and he answers honestly, it is to be normal or at least perceived as normal."

The scourge of polio in the mid-twentieth century became the focus of author Emmett's life. He contracted the disease at age nine in 1952. He believes the onset was caused by swimming in a lake that had been polluted via the local sewage treatment plant. Symptoms began with weakness and fever, followed by burning leg pain. Medical interventions at the time included lengthy isolation in special hospital wards to prevent contagion, extremely painful physical therapies administered with little regard for patient comfort, and complex surgeries in which healthy muscles were extracted and moved to weakened body parts, sometimes performed without anesthesia.

The boy, who was blessed with a concerned, close-knit family, left school at the fourth-grade level and returned in the eighth. During those four years at home, he learned to crawl, then walk with crutches, and by the time he finished high school, to walk slowly but unaided. One home-based therapist taught him to use his gradually strengthening hand and arm to throw a ball. Though it seemed a small, even insignificant accomplishment to some, to the boy and to his constant inner companion, whom he named "Mr. Normal," it was significant.

Later, Emmett would do well at sports, often impelled by the urging of Mr. Normal. In college and beyond, he became a strong golfer, despite the strain on his legs. He also taught himself to compete in doubles tennis after realizing that he could hit the ball with accuracy. And what would then be required were "three quick steps" to traverse the court space, steps which he practiced one by one. Despite ongoing handicaps, Emmett pursued chemistry (at which he excelled) as his college focus. His analytical mind and, as gradually became evident, his talent for marketing and management brought significant advancement in his professional life.

Writing this engaging memoir brought the author a new sense of accomplishment after recurrent physical problems, including the effects of a serious auto accident and some resurgence of what is known as post-polio syndrome began to take a toll on his mobility in his middle years. He writes about each phase of his life with admirable objectivity and a gift for humor. His interest in classic cars, his youthful romances and happy marriage, his travels to foreign climes, and his love of wine comprise enjoyable sidebars to his memories of physical and medical challenges.

Emmett employs a clever motif as part of the composition of this lively memoir. He inserts episodes in which he writes about himself in the third person, choosing this method for recollections of particular weight and sometimes high humor, showing "Bob" in a personal, more subjective light than could be captured in the general narrative. He has brought many close friends and relatives into his recollections and gives thanks to the caring people in his life who offered comfort, kindness, and real relief from the distress of being a polio victim. His work makes a salutary and worthwhile reading experience for readers, stressing determination and positive attitudes.

A 2015 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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