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Limping through Life: A Farm Boy's Polio Memoir

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Families throughout the United States lived in fear of polio throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, and now the disease had come to our farm. I can still remember that short winter day and the chilly night when I first showed symptoms. My life would never be the same.” —from the Introduction Polio was epidemic in the United States starting in 1916. By the 1930s, quaranti Families throughout the United States lived in fear of polio throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, and now the disease had come to our farm. I can still remember that short winter day and the chilly night when I first showed symptoms. My life would never be the same.” —from the Introduction Polio was epidemic in the United States starting in 1916. By the 1930s, quarantines and school closings were becoming common, as isolation was one of the only ways to fight the disease. The Sauk vaccine was not available until 1955; in that year, Wisconsin’s Fox River valley had more polio cases per capita than anywhere in the United States. In his most personal book, Jerry Apps, who contracted polio at age twelve, reveals how the disease affected him physically and emotionally, profoundly influencing his education, military service, and family life and setting him on the path to becoming a professional writer. A hardworking farm kid who loved playing softball, young Jerry Apps would have to make many adjustments and meet many challenges after that winter night he was stricken with a debilitating, sometimes fatal illness. In Limping through Life he explores the ways his world changed after polio and pays tribute to those family members, teachers, and friends who helped him along the way.


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Families throughout the United States lived in fear of polio throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, and now the disease had come to our farm. I can still remember that short winter day and the chilly night when I first showed symptoms. My life would never be the same.” —from the Introduction Polio was epidemic in the United States starting in 1916. By the 1930s, quaranti Families throughout the United States lived in fear of polio throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, and now the disease had come to our farm. I can still remember that short winter day and the chilly night when I first showed symptoms. My life would never be the same.” —from the Introduction Polio was epidemic in the United States starting in 1916. By the 1930s, quarantines and school closings were becoming common, as isolation was one of the only ways to fight the disease. The Sauk vaccine was not available until 1955; in that year, Wisconsin’s Fox River valley had more polio cases per capita than anywhere in the United States. In his most personal book, Jerry Apps, who contracted polio at age twelve, reveals how the disease affected him physically and emotionally, profoundly influencing his education, military service, and family life and setting him on the path to becoming a professional writer. A hardworking farm kid who loved playing softball, young Jerry Apps would have to make many adjustments and meet many challenges after that winter night he was stricken with a debilitating, sometimes fatal illness. In Limping through Life he explores the ways his world changed after polio and pays tribute to those family members, teachers, and friends who helped him along the way.

30 review for Limping through Life: A Farm Boy's Polio Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Saw this at the library yesterday when I went to pick up book on hold that continues the story of Code Name Verity. Decided I couldn't take any more WWII and needed a break. This was a wonderful read. It's suffused with warmth, wit and everything that makes Wisconsin Wisconsin. I've known Jerry Apps' name for years and served on the Madison Newspapers' Credit Union board with his son Steve; but before this book I really didn't know much about Jerry himself. The "limping" in the title refers to A Saw this at the library yesterday when I went to pick up book on hold that continues the story of Code Name Verity. Decided I couldn't take any more WWII and needed a break. This was a wonderful read. It's suffused with warmth, wit and everything that makes Wisconsin Wisconsin. I've known Jerry Apps' name for years and served on the Madison Newspapers' Credit Union board with his son Steve; but before this book I really didn't know much about Jerry himself. The "limping" in the title refers to Apps' bout with polio. I'm younger than Apps by a little bit but old enough to remember the polio scare when I was little. I was lucky to be at the right age to be able to get vaccinated when Salk made his discovery. Apps, who contracted polio when he was 12, mentioned that it struck more boys than girls but the only two people I know who had polio as kids are both women. One woman told me how she used to come to Madison in the summer as a child — but she spent her time alone in a room at the old UW-Hospital. Apps was luckier because he spent his time at home and, to a surprising extent, it was his country surroundings that spurred his earliest attempts at recovering his strengths. A book filled with lessons and stories that would make a perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I've always enjoyed reading Jerry Apps, and this book is no exception. The best parts in my opinion were the first 2/3 of the book, where he spends more time describing his rural WI environment and how getting polio affected his work on the farm. Once he gets into high school and college I started to get bored with the book...probably because he spent much more time describing more urban situations. I'm more interested in what life was like on the farm than on his journey to become a writer. Sti I've always enjoyed reading Jerry Apps, and this book is no exception. The best parts in my opinion were the first 2/3 of the book, where he spends more time describing his rural WI environment and how getting polio affected his work on the farm. Once he gets into high school and college I started to get bored with the book...probably because he spent much more time describing more urban situations. I'm more interested in what life was like on the farm than on his journey to become a writer. Still, I liked the book overall and am still continuing to search for similar writers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    This is an easy read. I found it interesting because our library hosted Jerry Apps for an author talk once and I am familiar with the town he grew up in. It was also interesting to learn about the effects of polio and his going off to college and breaking away from the family farm. I loved reading about how his family encouraged and supported ($$) him in going to college. Great for those looking for book with a hometown feel with an easy pace.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I so much wanted to like this book more than I did, since the subject matter very much appeals to me. But the writing style was a bit too dull and dry. Still a good read overall. I've already started his more recent The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters, which seems to have a bit more life to it. I so much wanted to like this book more than I did, since the subject matter very much appeals to me. But the writing style was a bit too dull and dry. Still a good read overall. I've already started his more recent The Quiet Season: Remembering Country Winters, which seems to have a bit more life to it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Another wonderful book by Jerry that focuses on his life starting at age 12 when he contracted polio. It was interesting to read about his life, and it makes me respect him more for opening up about the depression and negative thoughts he had, and the amazing people in his life who helped him and boost his self confidence.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Janet Gasser

    I enjoyed and appreciated the first part of the book, where the author told of his struggle with polio, how his family handled it, and how it affected his life, both negatively and positively. The latter part of the book was like reading someone's resume. I enjoyed and appreciated the first part of the book, where the author told of his struggle with polio, how his family handled it, and how it affected his life, both negatively and positively. The latter part of the book was like reading someone's resume.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Thiel

    True to the author's philosophy, this is written not to awe or befuddle the reader with fanciful language and elaborate description. The author still manages to relate his experience and convey the description of his life from being stricken with polio and navigating life after and beyond. There is no doubt that farm kids will recognize themselves and their families in Mr. Apps stories: the quiet wisdom in Pa, the confusion of memorizing Luther's "Small" Catechism with the declaration of "This i True to the author's philosophy, this is written not to awe or befuddle the reader with fanciful language and elaborate description. The author still manages to relate his experience and convey the description of his life from being stricken with polio and navigating life after and beyond. There is no doubt that farm kids will recognize themselves and their families in Mr. Apps stories: the quiet wisdom in Pa, the confusion of memorizing Luther's "Small" Catechism with the declaration of "This is most certainly true" dismissing any questioning or uncertainty, the mystique of the big city, and reverence for rural life. Mr. Apps has drawn on a career as a steward of rural life and writing to share a story that is uniquely his own but echoes the lives of farm kids certainly across the Midwest. Although we may no longer attend one room school houses or fear polio, we still share many of the experiences and the journey to appreciating our roots that he writes about. Limping Through Life is an easy and enjoyable read for those with appreciation for where they've come from and how that shapes where they've been and where they will go.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    This is an autobiography of Jerry Apps a native Wisconite. Jerry got the feared disease, polio. I remember that time though I am younger. I had kids in my classes that had had polio and had withered leg muscles. Jerry was a farm kid. He was used to being active. Farm kids have chores on the farm that he could not do anymore. He could not run so could not participate in backyard sports like the other kids. He did excel academically. I found it interesting that when he went to UW Madison he had tr This is an autobiography of Jerry Apps a native Wisconite. Jerry got the feared disease, polio. I remember that time though I am younger. I had kids in my classes that had had polio and had withered leg muscles. Jerry was a farm kid. He was used to being active. Farm kids have chores on the farm that he could not do anymore. He could not run so could not participate in backyard sports like the other kids. He did excel academically. I found it interesting that when he went to UW Madison he had trouble in chemistry at the college level. He states he had to learn both high school and college chemistry at the same time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    As other reviewers have noted, this memoir was reasonably well-written and very engaging, but deteriorated once Apps left his parents' farm and went away to college. I rarely skim books; I enjoy reading closely. However, the last third of the book was (as another reviewer put it) very much like reading someone's resume. The first two-thirds of the memoir make excellent reading, especially for a child in middle or high school, as it provides a glimpse into a very different time in American histor As other reviewers have noted, this memoir was reasonably well-written and very engaging, but deteriorated once Apps left his parents' farm and went away to college. I rarely skim books; I enjoy reading closely. However, the last third of the book was (as another reviewer put it) very much like reading someone's resume. The first two-thirds of the memoir make excellent reading, especially for a child in middle or high school, as it provides a glimpse into a very different time in American history.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    This book was brought to my attention by a friend who's child has AFM, the 21st century version of Polio. She was telling me about some of the similarities in the viruses and mentioned a memoir so I decided to use this for my "something I don't know a lot about in history" book for the 2019 BYL reading challenge. Upon a closer examination, I was supposed to read history/historical fiction but I'm going to use this anyway! The story is well written and full of information about living in a differe This book was brought to my attention by a friend who's child has AFM, the 21st century version of Polio. She was telling me about some of the similarities in the viruses and mentioned a memoir so I decided to use this for my "something I don't know a lot about in history" book for the 2019 BYL reading challenge. Upon a closer examination, I was supposed to read history/historical fiction but I'm going to use this anyway! The story is well written and full of information about living in a different time, not just about dealing with polio and it's aftereffects.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    Fond and vivid reminiscences of a boy with polio growing up in WI. His closeness in age and geography to my parents made it especially interesting. The only thing I didn’t like was that once he graduated from college it became about his schooling, writing, and positions. The stories got less interesting and he summed up meeting and marrying his wife in a sentence or two. If it weren’t for the last few chapters I would have given it four stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Crafty Cristy

    I have liked every book I have read by Mr. Apps, and this one is no exception. This book is different than the other books I have read by Mr. Apps. It contains his personal account of polio and its related complications.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Karen Richardson

    My first Jerry Apps read - looking forward to more. My mom was a student at UW Madison about the same time as Jerry; she also grew up in a hard working Wisconsin family and was first to attend college in her; it was meaningful for me to read this book to relate to her life experiences.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karenj

    I really enjoyed this book, having grown up on a Wisconsin farm myself.

  15. 4 out of 5

    MaryJayne

    loved this book,and so far all his books.They give you a feeling of days gone by that were a much simpler and nicer time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Always a good book by one of my favorite authors in the state.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I won this book through LibraryThing and just loved this book. It's a biography from Jerry Apps, who was stricken with Polio when he was 12 years old. Jerry is a remarkable person and is an awesome writer. His parents did not give up on him & helped him in his recovery period. Every thing Jerry endured helped him and I love that he took everything as a learning experience and did get better day by day. His parents helped shape him for the future, his work on the farm, driving a tractor, walking, I won this book through LibraryThing and just loved this book. It's a biography from Jerry Apps, who was stricken with Polio when he was 12 years old. Jerry is a remarkable person and is an awesome writer. His parents did not give up on him & helped him in his recovery period. Every thing Jerry endured helped him and I love that he took everything as a learning experience and did get better day by day. His parents helped shape him for the future, his work on the farm, driving a tractor, walking, riding a bicycle to church. This book was a wonderful quick read and I love that Jerry says at the end of the book that if it wasn't for Polio, he would not be the writer that he is today.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Page

    A memoir by one of Wisconsin's best-known authors. I love this kind of book... The culture of rural Wisconsin. A memoir by one of Wisconsin's best-known authors. I love this kind of book... The culture of rural Wisconsin.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin jacque

    It was a good book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    Great So real. A great book for those that have forgotten what is available right in front of you. Easy read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    LOVED this book!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Annie B.

    Simple book. Worthwhile reading.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jill Carr

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carla Abbott

  25. 4 out of 5

    David Riley

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Farley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rob Bignell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joe

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