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
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.
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
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.