Broken Spokes is an inspirational and moving story of a courageous child who, in spite of physical and emotional suffering, grew into a compassionate, loving and valiant woman. Crippled at age six, the author begins an odyssey which will consume her entire life. Through her sufferings, she finds a way to heal others, and in doing so, saves herself.
My Review: This book came to me recommended by a dear friend. I don’t read many memoirs, but I’m certainly glad I read this book by Arlene R. O’Neil. Touching, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring, Broken Spokes follows the life of the author as she copes with a life-altering disease and the life-long repercussions.
The story begins at a carefree place in Arlene’s life–her happy family life, typical sibling rivalry, good times with her best friend, and sheer joy at getting the bike of her dreams. When a tragic accident leads to the discovery of a crippling illness, Arlene must leave the love and security of her home. She is diagnosed with Legg-Perthes disease, and in the early 1960s, the only “cure” was for the patient to spend all their time in braces, unable to put any weight on the affected leg and hip.
Arlene is sent to home for crippled children where she quickly learns the rules of her new home. Don’t walk, don’t talk past bedtime, don’t make noise, don’t cry–these words not only structure her days, but they become a mantra she repeats throughout her life. Arlene feels like an invalid, an inconvenience, a burden on those she loves. When a nurse tells her not to upset her parents, she takes this advice to heart and begins to trap her feelings deep inside her, and it’s years before those feelings break free. There are moments of joy in this book, but those fleeting episodes are tempered with Arlene’s fears. Even when she’s released from the children’s home, she still has much healing to do–physically and emotionally.
This story often had me in tears as I became caught up in Arlene’s life. Broken Spokes is written simply, but beautifully and reads in such a way that I felt like I was living the author’s life right beside her. The author doesn’t dwell on pain, nor does she feel sorry for herself as she tells her tale. She is upfront, honest, and inspiring. Arlene’s journey from a broken child to an adult who uses her life’s challenges to help others is truly worth reading. She reminds us of how important feelings are and that we must never, ever tell a child not suppress their emotions. We must never tell our children not to cry. Thank you, Arlene, for sharing your story with the world.