Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: In a Single Bound by Sarah Reinertsen

Sarah Reinertsen's memoir of growing up and dealing with being an amputee is inspiring and fascinating. I kept reading bits out loud to my boyfriend which is always a good sign.

Sarah was born with a birth defect that left her left leg much shorter and it was never really going to grow. When she was still a little kid, she had the leg amputated. Her parents worked multiple jobs to pay for her many, many prostheses (insurance paid for the first one), and never limited her in any way. However, her father was abusive, both physically and emotionally. Luckily Sarah found a way to deal with the physical and emotional trauma: through sport, as well as therapy.

She began running and represented the United States in the paralympics in the 100 m and 200 m sprints. In para-events, like-disabled compete against like, so the single amputees compete against the single amputees, the double amputees against the double, the blind against the blind, etc. However, Sarah frequently found that in competitions, even at the very top levels, there often weren't enough single amputees and so she would be combined with other groups and end up competing again people with two legs, and sometimes her event would be cut altogether. She decided to switch events and try for distance instead. She signed up to do a 5K and after that, there was no stopping her. After multiple marathons, she figured she'd try for the Ironman, oh and also compete in The Amazing Race along the way.

Her story is of course inspiring, but it's not just a sappy, sweet tale of a cute kid overcoming difficulties. Sarah is a very real and relatable person. She has flaws and issues just like all of us. I liked how upfront she was about the abuse, and also about the amputation. To be honest, many of us two-legged people who read a book like this, it's to find out what it's like to live as an amputee, and Sarah really conveyed that well, from the difficulties with different prosthetics to the practicality of dealing with them daily and how much they break, to the fact that she really doesn't like her partial leg and how uncomfortable it's been for her over the years to deal with in romantic relationships. Sarah may be both tougher (I took 30 minutes longer to complete my first marathon) and wimpier (boy she cries a lot) than me, but in the end, I felt like we could be friends. She comes across as a very genuine, open person.

I bought this book from my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

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