Includes Book Review: Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg
May 1, 2020: The past six weeks have been a continuing transformation of “normal”. Settling into new stay-home isolation, two challenges arrived simultaneously: a beautiful but ultra-difficult 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle and a book-review request. The jigsaw image is by Sara Steele, one of my favorite modern painters, and ultimately worth the agony that prompted visions of a mini bonfire, puzzle pieces aflame. The book, by Anna Penenberg, chronicles a single mother’s heartaches and strengths as she and her daughter (stricken with a debilitating illness later diagnosed as Lyme Disease) are propelled through one medical intervention after another, hopes rising and falling. I welcomed this book to better understand Lyme Disease.
Certainly I had ample time to work this puzzle and review this book. They made interesting “lap” companions! The puzzle flowers took me virtually out-of-house, and the book took me out-of-now back to years as a single mother. The timing of reading this book is notable. A book about rising to meet uncertainties, about survival through adapting – along with a world-wide call to face uncertainty, to adapt.
I’ve collaged together the imagery, as these two have become interwoven symbols of my pandemic stay-at-home experience. I’m breaking usual form with this post to include the book review, below. You can pre-order now on Amazon; availability is July 2020.
Dancing In The Narrows by Anna Penenberg (She Writes Press, July 2020)
This is a true tale of resilience facing uncertainty. Lyme disease is the villain. Mother Anna Penenberg and daughter Dana are each victims, though only the daughter harbors Lyme. Both are also heroines. Though many Lyme specifics are covered, read this book for its model of perseverance against odds, against unknowns. The book is hard to put down. And when the last page turns, you will see your own challenges through a clearer lens.
~~~Woven into the struggles are spiritual connections to nature, labyrinths, and dance. Author Anna Penenberg studied dance in college to become a therapist using bodily motion to heal. Exploring treatments takes mother and daughter on several road trips, each a mix of serious business with natural and spiritual encounters. Like the sunset viewing of the Grand Canyon while pelted by hail, doubling over in laughter, needed relief. “Everything bothered Dana. When pain overwhelmed her ability to be civil, we drove in silence.”
~~~The Narrows, a slot canyon in Zion National Park, is a 16-mile stretch of the Virgin River where tall canyon walls come closer and closer together. On a rare week away from Dana, Anna returns to this place during a rainy season, and hikers must stop short of her desired point. She is allowed 10 minutes on her own, a little beyond the group. She splashes along a sandbar, hugging the cliff, finding herself “not broken.” The book is named for this pivot point.
~~~The phrase “She will turn a corner” captures the essence of years of searching for answers, “as if we were driving in a neighborhood where, if we made the right turn, we would meet the cure for Lyme disease.”
~~~As Dana begins to improve (in 2012), Anna celebrates turning sixty with a circle of women, reflecting: “I’d had the heroic job of standing by my ailing daughter day and night for years. It wasn’t a job that could be hired out. It wasn’t a job I chose. It wasn’t a job with tenure, benefits, retirement, or prestige, but it transformed me.” The illness began in 2007. In 2013 Dana could finally live on her own. “I took off the cloak of survival and stepped naked into my life.”
~~~Each chapter opens with a poignant quote. One, from Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” This book has much to offer anyone (male or female) facing a challenge that defies resolution — hence, all of us facing the 2020 pandemic. This odyssey encourages survival through persistent pursuit. Protocols embraced by daughter Dana make 2020 rigorous hand-washing seem trivial.
Book Review posted on GoodReads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3309921796?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1