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

Afflicted with polio at age nine, the author spent many agonizing years, days, and minutes fighting the disease on numerous fronts. After initial surgeries and daily physical therapy, he was able to crawl. By 1954, he could walk with crutches. By his sophomore year in high school, he no longer needed them. Thus began a lifelong inner conversation with “Mr. Normal” who pushed him to act like everybody else, even if it meant running on icy pavement. Friends and classmates learned to walk more slowly to stay with him, just as he determined to participate in more activities with them. He learned to play (and win at) cards, ping-pong, chess, and tennis. The latter he accomplished by taking just “three quick steps” and developing a power serve. He wanted to study medicine but was fortuitously guided to chemistry instead. He enjoyed a successful career, becoming a high-ranking executive in the chemicals and minerals industry.

With rugged determination, parental support, several key mentors, and a loving wife, Emmett has battled polio and PPS (post-polio syndrome—a physical and psychological barrier) and numerous medical treatments over time. These trials and his reactions to them—searing pain, nightmares, numerous falls, and the continued exhortations from “Mr. Normal”—are recounted with intelligence and quiet humor. Emmett has constructed a well-organized chronicle using an interesting device in which he sometimes speaks of himself in the third person as if to observe from a mental distance some of the more distressing episodes in his confrontation with disease. In retirement, he and his wife are engaged in winemaking, with his knowledge of chemistry coming into play in that hobby. Emmett’s lively recollections hark back to an early plague time in our history and how it was overcome, giving a particular salience to this engaging memoir.

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