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One More Theory About Happiness    by Paul Guest order for
One More Theory About Happiness
by Paul Guest
Order:  USA  Can
Ecco, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

After a bicycle accident left him a quadriplegic at the age of twelve, Paul Guest struggled to learn to live with his new broken body. One More Theory About Happiness is the story of his accident and his slow recovery, first in a rehabilitation center where he was the only child, and then back at home in a house with a bathroom that was too small for him to enter unaided.

At first there was hope that his paralysis would not be permanent, and his parents attempted to get the best possible care for him and suffered as they watched him struggle. His spirits were kept up by those who encouraged him - the professionals who cared for him, and other patients at the rehab center. On his darkest days he would sometimes be cheered by the smallest act of kindness from another person.

Returning to school was difficult, but middle school turned out to be an easy adjustment. High school was another matter entirely. When Paul started high school, he was provided with an assistant who was supposed to take notes for him, but his first assistant was not helpful at all. She told him right away that she couldn't spell, which turned out to be an understatement.

'In class, Sharon's job was, ostensibly, to take notes while a teacher lectured or write my answers on class work or tests. Instead, I whispered in her ear every letter of every word of every line of notes I needed for every class, while attempting to disturb no one else: my classmates, whose pens and pencils sped across the pages, and my teachers, who listened to the class-long mutter I made in her ear with growing frustration.'

An intelligent teen, Paul learned to get most of his class information from the texts, and some of his teachers gave him copies of the class lectures in an attempt to help him.

Paul stayed at home while going to college, where his parents and brothers could continue to help him. When he finally got to live on his own in graduate school, he was thrilled. He still had aides, who came in every day, but he was able to be alone at night for the first time since his accident. His mother drove him to his new apartment in a city far from home and together they interviewed aides. When she got ready to leave, though, she cried. Paul's reaction to her tears was thoughtful.

'Ten years had taught me no better how to be cried over. Which was a form of mourning, long distended. I thought of my father, in the days following my surgery, when I'd felt like something emptied and then filled again with pain, and how he had sobbed beneath the weight of love and its unbreakable responsibility. Then I'd been a child, saved from pain for that moment by his.'

Now, however, his concern for his mother overwhelmed his own feelings of fear at being on his own for the first time.

This engrossing and inspiring small book is difficult to put down. Guest's writing is concise and lyrical, which isn't surprising when you learn that he has also written and published books of poetry. Can you say you enjoyed reading a book about a devastating accident happening to a child and what happens to him as he grows up? Yes, you can, simply because it is written without self-pity and with so much strength of character and humor, as well as an understanding of the reactions of other people when they meet him. This was one of the best memoirs I've read.

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