Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A. Manette Ansay concludes at the end of her 2001 memoir, Limbo:  “I was raised to believe that every question had its single, uniform answer, and that answer was God’s will. But the human body, like the life it leads, is ultimately a mystery, and to live my life without restraint, to keep moving forward instead of looking back, I have had to let go of that need to understand why what has happened has happened and, indeed, is happening still.”

The title of this memoir, taken from the Catholic belief in a place between heaven and hell that is neither one, suggests that Ansay uses it to show how her life was placed on hold for three years while she suffered from a debilitating ailment that at the age of twenty-three left her in a wheel chair. The memoir, written with honesty and directness, is a beautiful chronicle of her childhood, young adulthood, and then the crushing obstacle of physical illness in a family full of ‘fundamental assumptions about life and faith.”

Growing up in rural Wisconsin in a large extended Catholic farming family, Ansay came of age in changing times. Born in the mid 1960s, Ansay was the oldest of two children and greatly influenced by the religious belief immersed deeply in her large family and that surrounded her daily life.

When she was fifteen, she thought seriously about a career as a classical pianist and devoted her time and energy to making that a reality. As she practiced playing, she noted a numbness and tingling in her arms and fingers that she and her piano teachers assumed were the side-effects of rigorous practice.

For the next three years, she tried to either ignore the symptoms or treated them with home remedies and anti-inflammatory drugs.  She landed admittance to Baltimore’s prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music. There, her dream unraveled.

A wonderful storyteller with an eye for the necessary detail, Ansay hits all the right notes [no pun intended] in this examination of her early life. She changed directions as an artist and became a writer, which may have been a loss for the world of music but is only a win for the world of readers. :)

Good read. 

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