A request for assistance cutting up food leads to a jaw-droppingly ignorant comment from an airhostess, “Do you mind being my baby?” Thus Sarah Anderson felt compelled to write about what it’s like to live with one arm, in a two-armed world.
You could say Sarah isn’t the luckiest person in the world. Her left arm was amputated when she had cancer at 10, later she endured months of immobility after breaking her leg in 26 places in a skiing accident, and an early menopause at 33 dashed any hopes she may have had of having children.
This book is about Sarah’s personal struggle to come to terms with becoming an amputee. The difficulty she had with this is hardly surprising when she points out that nowadays an average of 19 people with different skills help and advise someone after an amputation. Sarah had no-one. Consequently, she lived in “a web of silence” and denial. It took nine years before she finally asked her parents what had happened to her arm.
The book is peppered with literary quotes and interspersed with personal research.
At times I found the literary quotes went on a bit and I just wanted to get back to the story. In particular, I was captivated by the push-pull feeling Sarah had – between not wanting to belong to the world of disabled people and the fact that her experiences, eg of social/job discrimination, were undeniably of that world.
Halfway to Venus is Sarah’s “search for my ‘lost’ arm”. Her research into the importance, portrayal and cultural significance of hands and arms, and her exploration of the worlds of amputees and disability, gives her a sense of closure, and readers an insight into those worlds which they may not have had before.