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Limbo: A Memoir [Paperback]

A. Manette Ansay

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (Sep 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0732271169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380732876
  • ASIN: 0380732874
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,043,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Paperback. Pub Date: 2002 Pages: 288 in Publisher: Harper Perennial From childhood. acclaimed novelist A. Manette Ansay trained to become a concert pianist But when she was nineteen. a mysterious muscle disorder forced her to give up the piano. and by twenty-one. she couldn't grip a pen or walk across a room. She entered a world of limbo. one in which no one could explain what was happening to her or predict what the future would hold. At twenty-three . beginning a whole new life in a motorized wheelchair. Ansay made a New Year's resolution to start writing fiction. rediscovering the sense of passion and purpose she thought she had lost for good. Thirteen years later. still without a firm diagnosis or prognosis. Ansay reflects on the ways in which the unraveling of one life can plant the seeds of another. and considers how her own physical limbo has challenged-in ways not ne...

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First Sentence
I have moved eleven times in the sixteen years since leaving home, a word that to me will always mean southeastern Wisconsin, and the little town where I was raised, and my grandmother's one-hundred-acre farm seven miles to the north. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The abyss opens beneath our feet . . . ." 8 Jan 2006
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
In "Limbo," a memoir by A. Manette Ansay, the author remembers growing up in the sixties and seventies, for the most part, with fondness. Although Ann's traditional Catholic upbringing gave her nightmares on more than one occasion, the strict rules and routines that governed her life made her feel secure. When her parents took her to Wisconsin, she got to know her large extended family, which included sixty-seven cousins. As a youngster, Ann enjoyed physical activity of any sort. She loved to run, jump, and wrestle, and she even did sit-ups and push-ups when she was in elementary school.

One of the great loves of Ann's life was music. She took piano lessons for years and practiced for hours each day. She became so proficient that she was eventually admitted to the prestigious Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Tragically, her promising musical career was cut short when physical symptoms that she had been battling for years suddenly grew worse. She suffered from intense pain in her arms and legs, and the doctors she consulted could not agree on a diagnosis. She tried cortisone shots, anti-inflammatory drugs, splints, braces, surgery, hypnosis, and many other treatments. Nothing cured her, although there were times when she could walk under her own power for short distances. However, because of the pain in her arms, Ann knew that she had to give up her dream of becoming a concert pianist. After much soul searching, she eventually turned to writing.

"Limbo" is an episodic memoir that goes back and forth in time. The shifts are sometimes too sudden and they give the book a choppy feel. In addition, it is a bit confusing when Ansay uses the present tense to describe events long past. However, her descriptive writing is vivid, lyrical, and evocative. She uses creative imagery to depict the people she has known and the experiences that have shaped her life. The author includes in her memoir engrossing anecdotes about a wide variety of topics, including her troubled Grandmother Ansay, the way that Chaim Potok's novel, "The Chosen" changed her view of the world, her ambivalence about religion, and her childhood worries and escapades.

The book is most affecting when Ann talks about her illness and how it transformed her. She attended and completed college, even though she was unable to take notes or written exams. Strangers stared and pointed at her in her wheelchair or made rude comments about her disability, such as, "You've got it easy--the rest of us have to walk." However, the illness brought Ann closer to her parents, especially her mother, who was an invaluable asset to her sick daughter. In 1986, Ann's mother took her on a seven-hour drive to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota every six weeks for treatments.

Today, Ansay is a successful writer, and she has come to terms with her condition. She says, "It's a good life, made up of the people I love, the novels I've written and those I plan to write . . . ." Her persistence, determination, and resilience are inspiring, and I recommend "Limbo" for those who are interested in a true story of courage and grace under pressure.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stands apart from the books which try to find meaning in difficulty 21 Aug 2006
By K. Corn - Published on Amazon.com
There are those who easily turn to their religion to find comfort in the midst of nearly any difficulty. Then there are those who REFUSE to do so and who are able to find their way through the pain anyway.

Ansay falls into the latter group (and I want to be clear here,...I'm not saying one viewpoint is better than the other, only pointing out the facts).

She is quite honest about her unwillingness (or inability) to make that choice for herself. She is faced with a mysterious illness and no guarantee of recovery. She may be in a wheelchair all her life. She is young.

THe result? A book about how she comes to grips with all of this WITHOUT insisting on finding "meaning" or a sense that she was destined for this or that there is some deeper significance or spiritual pattern in her illness.

If you know someone in a similar circumstance, someone for whom religion is not an easy comfort and who wonders how others have coped, this would be a perfect choice. It is also worth reading by just about anyone who wonders "What if?" or "How would I handle this?". Honest, detailed and unflinching.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ansay's memoir is as Beautifully Written as Her Novels! 19 Oct 2001
By Mary Lins - Published on Amazon.com
A. Manette Ansay has been a favorite of mine since her first published novel "Vinegar Hill"; she's one of those authors that you buy in hardcover because you can't wait for the paperback. Her most recent novel "Midnight Champagne" was so good that it begs to be savored over and over again.
So when I saw that she had written her memoir I was anxious to read about this young writer that I so admire. Now that I have read it I have even MORE for which to admire her. The descriptions of her phisical dibilitation are heart breaking...but at the same time her spirit is uplifting; her talent is daunting.
I especially appreciate her description of losing her Catholic faith. I went through the same gamut of emotions - panic and peace - when I lost mine.
Everything she writes strikes true. I will be the first in line for her next work.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Atypical Memoir 5 April 2002
By Helene Hoffman - Published on Amazon.com
I enjoyed this book, for the most part. Ansay is best when she addresses her disease. This is an atypical memoir, as most memoirs concerning diseases have the following pattern: I was healthy; I became ill with a specific disease (or addicted, alcoholic, etc.); I recovered. Ansay is courageous in showing us a less "hopeful" situation. To this day, she does not have a specific diagnosis of her affliction, and not only has she not recovered, she is realistic in revealing that she may never recover. She writes about what her day-to-day life is like, and that it may never change. She also honestly writes about peoples' different reactions to her in a wheelchair; many had the gall to ask what was wrong, and others were wondering what she must have done "wrong" in a past life "to deserve this"! No one would just let her have the disease, plain and simple, and go on with her life. She shows that she is more than her disease; she is a sensitive, open writer. As other critics have noted (Sontag, etc), for some reason, our society demands that illness must have meaning. Ansay is explaining, in this memoir, that it just is what it is.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lyrical and dispassionate 11 May 2002
By Peggy Vincent - Published on Amazon.com
Since writing my own memoir, BABY CATCHER: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife (Scribner 2002), I have been studying the style of other memorists. I found Ansay's prose lyrical, mesmerizing, and almost poetic throughout this beautiful book. To be able to write about her losses as a result of a still-mysterious illness similar to MS, with calmness and lack of hyperbole, is admirable and enviable. From the very beginning you know this story doesn't have a happy outcome, but at no time did I feel depressed. On some level, I rejoiced for this author, for her own successes and insight and hope and the joy in small gains, small triumphs over her difficulties. Limbo is a love story, an admirable one. I wish this author lived next door to me. I would sit at her feet in awe and bake her cookies and bread at every opportunity. May she continue to write and write and write.
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