Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Walk Away

I honestly don't remember why I put Katherine Center's How to Walk Away on hold at the library.  But when the book came in, I decided I might as well give it a shot (especially since I was heading out to camp and wanted to bring a fiction book out rather than the nonfiction one I'm reading).

How to Walk Away starts out when Margaret, who is terrified of flying, is convinced by her boyfriend, Chip, to come flying with him. Chip proposes to her in the air, but then crash lands the plane.  Chip escapes without a scratch, while Margaret suffers burns and a spinal cord injury.  She wakes up in the hospital with a couple of skin grafts and unable to move her legs below the knee.  Her family is by her side (including her estranged sister Kitty, who hasn't spoken to Margaret in three years), but Chip is nowhere to be found (or as Margaret's father says, he's suffering "a touch of the Irish flu"). 

And so begins Margaret's journey back to health.  With injuries like her's, doctors consider there to be an approximately six week window where the spinal cord can heal; after those six weeks, the damage will not be reversible.  Margaret finds herself working with Ian, a Scottish Physical Therapist (PT) who is not very personable (her nurse even tries to get Margaret moved to a different PT who will be a better fit with Margaret, but no luck). 

Meanwhile, Kitty keeps trying to get Margaret to let her back into Margaret's life.  Kitty left unexpectedly three years ago after a fight with their mother and has only stayed in contact with their father.  Margaret was bewildered by the whole thing; she tried to contact her sister repeatedly, but after receiving no response, she gave up.  So Kitty coming back is hard for Margaret at first; but in the end she forgives her sister and they get closer.

As they get closer, they start conspiring to get Ian to open up.  Ian is dour where the other PTs are friendly and cheering for their clients.  Margaret resents it at first, until making him laugh or smile becomes a game to her.  And while he may not be cheerful, he definitely has her back; when Chip makes an appearance to tell Margaret that he has slept with his ex-girlfriend, it is Ian who hears her screaming at him to leave (and actually gets Chip to leave).  Eventually, Margaret's parents hire Ian as a tutor to give her more physical therapy in the hopes that her spine will recover; they grow closer and closer the more they are working together.

In many ways, How to Walk Away was a bit predictable: yes, Margaret falls in love with Ian.  Ian believes that she has a version of Stockholm Syndrome and rejects her.  But eventually they end up together (with him chasing after and jumping onto the boat she happens to be on).  But in other ways, it wasn't: I was expecting Margaret to walk again, but she does not.  I also wasn't expecting the drama between Margaret's parents to happen (although in some ways I should have seen that coming).

How to Walk Away is ultimately a very light and fast read.  I finished it in one day (I actually couldn't put it down - I chose to keep reading rather than go to sleep for most of the night).  I enjoyed the antics of the characters (Margaret's family in particular were quite fun). Overall, I just really enjoyed reading How to Walk Away - it was exactly the kind of story I needed as a break from all the nonfiction I've been reading lately!

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