The Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of Let’s Take the Long Way Home now gives us a stunning, exquisitely written memoir about a dramatic turning point in her life, which unexpectedly opened up a world of understanding, possibility, and connection. New Life, No Instructions is about the surprising way life can begin again, at any age.
What do you do when the story changes in midlife? When a tale you have told yourself turns out to be a little untrue, just enough to throw the world off-kilter? It’s like leaving the train at the wrong stop: You are still you, but in a new place, there by accident or grace, and you will need your wits about you to proceed.
Any change that matters, or takes, begins as immeasurably small. Then it accumulates, moss on stone, and after a few thousand years of not interfering, you have a glen, or a waterfall, or a field of hope where sorrow used to be.
I suppose all of us consider our loved ones extraordinary; that is one of the elixirs of attachment. But over the months of pain and disrepair of that winter, I felt something that made the grimness tolerable: I felt blessed by the tribe I was part of. Here I was, supposedly solo, and the real truth was that I had a force field of connection surrounding me.
“Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway. About second chances, and how they’re sometimes buried amid the dross, even when you’re poised for the downhill grade. The narrative can always turn out to be a different story from what you expected.
©2014 Gail Caldwell (P)2014 Random House Audio
More than just a memoir, this is an intense, focused insight into the dying process, addiction, love of pets and family, identity, and so much more. having Gehl Caldwell read it in her mild Texas twang, modulated by years of living in Cambridge, is an added bonus.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Living life takes a kind of courage. Gail Caldwell’s memoir, "New Life", is a glimpse of her courage. Challenged by early life polio, Caldwell fashions a universal story. Most children learn how to walk before they are two. Caldwell took a little longer, but her experience resonates with every person’s success in mastering a new skill. All feel a sense of being a captain of their soul and master of events when they learn to walk or stand alone.
Courage is most clearly evidenced in Caldwell’s memoir when she advances into middle age. Unlike being late to walk, Caldwell is early to immobility at 61. Through chance, Caldwell is seen by a doctor who properly diagnoses premature hip damage. (Previous doctors failed to x-ray Caldwell’s hip.) The damage can be corrected with a surgically implanted titanium hip-joint. Caldwell chooses to have the operation. That choice means six months of excruciating rehabilitation.
One can draw different conclusions from Caldwell’s memoir. Every life has its challenges. No life is offered a list of instructions; either at birth, adolescence, maturity, or death. Every person has chances and choices. It takes a kind of courage to make choices. Caldwell’s choice is to never give up.
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