Hold My Hand:
A Mother's Journey

by Glenys Carl

Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd, 2005. ISBN 028307020X.
Reviewed by Melanie Alberts
Posted on 02/02/2006

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships

Glenys Carl's memoir begins with the most dreaded moment in a mother's life: getting the call that her twenty-one-year-old son Scott has been seriously injured and may not survive the night. So starts a story that is as hard to put down as it is to forget. It is the story of what, for most, would be an insurmountable trial—managing the care of a brain-damaged son, alone, in a foreign country—but turns into an inspirational tale of what a mother's love can accomplish. Glenys Carl, born in Wales and divorced from an American service man with whom she had three sons, showed dogged perseverance in getting the best care for Scott with limited means. She found that the results didn't come from placing him in an institution but in obtaining volunteers to help care for Scott at home. The outpouring of love and attention from total strangers who entered their lives was unexpected and provided many moving and funny moments in the book. There was the "magic mountain man" named Billy who camped out for weeks, giving Scott daily massage treatments while taking in clients on the side in the Carls' living room. There were "many attractive young women and not-so-young women" who were captivated by Scott's charisma. Glenys describes the colorful situation this way:

"All day, every day, we are visited by a cross-section of Australian society. People drift in and out. I lose track of who is volunteering and who is there to socialize, bring food or flowers, or pick up laundry. Neighbors check in and musicians arrive unannounced. A beautiful high-school girl with long brown hair stands over Scott and plays a violin concerto. Two university students with African djembe drums pound out rhythms. A leathery fellow from the outback with a didgeridoo entertains us with three friends on flute, tambourine and guitar...[d]ay and night our little apartment overflows with music and laughter."

Although the free help was a godsend, Scott required more extensive therapy. Combined with the fact that the Australian authorities would not extend their visas, Glenys was faced with the alternatives of flying Scott back to America, where care was too expensive, or to England, where Scott could wait to receive therapy through the National Health Service. In the second half of the book, the Carls move to London, where a whole new network of volunteers was to be recruited. After tearfully reading the final chapters of Hold My Hand, I knew of many other women who would benefit from reading this story as you will, too.

After reading this memoir, I had questions about Glenys Carl's experience writing the book. A Story Circle Network member currently living in New Mexico, she graciously agreed to answer some questions about her memoir. Like many women, Glenys considered writing her story about Scott for her grandchildren. Due to the media attention garnered from her extensive work with volunteers, she got offers from agents and publishers and soon had a contract to finish her book within three months time.

"But I thought at the time I would never be able to write a book because it seemed so overwhelming," Glenys said. "It used to be easy for me to write three to four pages at a time. I always do my writing in longhand. That's why I have to rely on someone who is more computer able than myself."

Glenys worked with a transcriber who typed down her thoughts and with a writer named Steve Rada who reworked her original manuscript. "I gave him all the pages and then worked with him, he asking questions on a tape recorder and him taping my answers. He worked some of my answers into the story as well as assisted in cleaning it up and rewrote certain things." The resulting book was published in England. The paperback edition is coming out this spring, and Glenys hopes to soon find an American publisher for the book. It will be available for sale at the upcoming "Stories from the Heart" Story Circle Network conference and also is available online through Amazon.com.

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