New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir - Gail Caldwell

This is a story about how quickly your life can change just when you think you are beyond the age of any major revelations. How one day you are hiking and rowing and walking your dog; and the next, you can barely manage to cross the room. How you make do, and you manage expectations, and you overcompensate — how you suck it up because it’s just not going to get better. How sometimes, you are so focused on what you think is wrong, that you have a difficult time believing it when they tell you it’s something completely different.


Gail Caldwell had polio as a very small child. A mild case, but it had its enduring effects; a bum leg that seemed to get worse as she got older. It was her story when she went to a new doctor, and it was all she knew. It made her think, this is the best I can be, damaged. When she learns, to her astonishment, that the problem is in her hip and not her leg (and not that much to do with polio), her approach to life is dramatically altered. She can be fixed. She can learn to walk again. She can live without pain.


If you are like me and have read her first memoir, Let’s Take The Long Way Home, reading this book will be like a visit to an old friend. Gail Caldwell is a stunningly strong woman. She has faced a number of issues in her life — battled alcoholism, suffered the loss of her dear friend — with equanimity and grace. She generously shares her journey with us, and it is an eloquent and moving tribute to life. And, at a time when most people are settling down to a comfortable retirement, Gail Caldwell has learned to walk again.