Just Breathe Normally (American Lives) by Peggy Shumaker

By Peggy Shumaker

Just Breathe Normally opens with a hectic coincidence. Shattered perceptions and shards of narrative recount the occasions, from destroy via restoration and past. In lyric prose, the tales spiral again via generations to the touch on questions of mortality and kin, immigration and migration, legacies meant or inflicted.
In the wake of her near-fatal biking collision, Peggy Shumaker searches for that means inside extremity. via an extended convalescence, she reevaluates her family’s earlier, treating us to a meditation at the which means of justice and the position of affection within the grueling strategy of therapeutic. Her booklet, a relocating memoir of youth and kinfolk, testifies to the facility of collective empathy within the ameliorations that make and remake us all through our lives.
Shumaker crafts language not like someone else, language right away poetic and profound. Her memoir enacts our human wish to comprehend the fragmented self. We see in perform the ability of phrases to revive what scientific technological know-how can't: the delicate human psyche and its monstrous means for forgiveness.

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I know then I’ve asked and asked many times. And he has answered. He gathers himself, trying hard. What could he say that would stay heard? The day after the wreck we were supposed to be in the Brooks Range, building a walkway between our two frumpy cabins and repairing the gnawed places opened up by porcupines. I picture getting into the Widgeon, an amphibious plane with an entry about the size of a small cupboard. Walk bent over up to a seat near the nose. Scrunch into the seat, reach overhead and behind for the two-shouldered seatbelt.

What’s the etiquette? I ask to see it, whatever they take out, curious about what has come to live in me, curious too to see in person what I’ve known mostly from sketches — instructions tucked inside the Tampax box, The Visible Woman, her layers peeled back, Our Bodies, Ourselves, and once in the ‘70s a practitioner’s purple hand mirror held so I could see. Groggy after surgery, thumbing the pain button like a contestant on Jeopardy—What is morphine? —I imagine never moving again. Each swell of pain crests, rolls on.

When she came up pregnant, she expected my dad to step up. And he did. They married. He worked a series of day jobs he hated. To keep his soul alive, he worked dance jobs at night. He made himself as scarce as he could, pointing to his role as the man of the house, the worker, to explain why he wasn’t there (even when he was in the house), why he had nothing really to bring home, no reason really to come home. 21 We grew around the empty place his absence left in the family. When he was in the house, everybody felt crowded.

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