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Book Review - Limbo
by A. Manette Ansay
William Morrow, 2001
Review by S. V. Swamy
Jul 3rd 2002

Limbo is the autobiographical account of A. Manette Ansay. It is a powerfully narrated, at places poignant, account of a woman whose life takes a totally unexpected turn when she is crippled by a nameless disease, which nevertheless is no less debilitating. Her dream of becoming a professional pianist is cut short and her future is uncertain and thus is devastatingly frightening. She comes out of it with a wonderful grit, a faith in her self (when her faith in God, taught in her childhood starts waning) and of course with the wonderful support of her family.

Mansay traces with candor, her childhood dreams, her traumatic encounters with grandparents and the ill-health of her own father, which prevented him from taking up the farming work and made him change his life style. We thus find a very striking comparison between Manette's life and her father's. Even towards the end of her memoir, the author, out of deference to her father, does not give out more than a peek into his youth and his battle with tuberculosis and his recovery from that disease, albeit with reduced physical stamina. I (the reviewer) feel that her father's illness had certainly some connection to her own disease. And though she doesn't explicitly state so, her grandmother's (on her father's side) ill health seems to have had its own negative influence on the health of her father. Her description of the grandparents' house is very vivid and I, for one, would not think of spending even one night in such a place! The contrast with her maternal grandparent's house is striking.

Whether the author believes it or not, destiny has played a major role in her life. Even the event which changed her life for the better (her going to a theatre with her boy friend who finally commits himself to her) is an act of God, who has thus given her a fresh lease of life.

Limbo is not for the light-hearted or romantically inclined. It is also not for those who are looking only for titillation. Limbo is a serious book, meant for people who value life, who respect courage, who respect the optimism of human spirit. If you are that type, you won't be able to put the book down, you won't be able to help crying for the teenager who was being tested, and tested so severely at that. And you can't but help admire the woman, who grits her teeth, and who comes out, with a spirit which is not only intact, but also with a spirit probably so refined, that it can empathize with similar afflicted people.

The author certainly comes out from the book as a brave woman, neither begging for nor willing to accept mercy, who takes on the life and emerges victorious.

Though classified as non-fiction, the book is beautifully written as far as style and readability is concerned. Mansay is an excellent storyteller.  For the serious reader, this book is well worth the investment.


© 2002 S. V. Swamy



S. V. Swamy, India.