Mind's Eye by Paul Fleischman, 2001
Paul Fleishman's books are always original. I was intrigued by the play-like dialogue format he used in this one.
Sixteen year old Courtney's spinal chord is severed. As her mother is no longer living, her stepfather places her in a nursing home. It is the middle of winter in North Dakota and the snow is falling outside her window. Courtney is the youngest person in the home and her roommate is 88 year old Elva, a former English teacher. Elva's mind is sharp. She is pleased to have Courtney as a roommate. She exhorts Courtney to expand her mind and convinces her to to read aloud from a 1910 edition of Baedeker's Italy so the two of them can take a virtual trip through time and space and tour Italy. They plan their routes and Courtney describes what they are "seeing." Courtney is understandably depressed and attempts to sabotage their "trip" but soon finds her own refuge in this voyage of the mind.
Fleishman has crafted a poignant and thoughtful story about survival of the spirit.
Elva: "What a blessing, at least, that your injuries are strictly below the waist. That your brain was spared. The life of the mind is so much more sustaining than the life of the body . . . A pretty girl like you may find that hard to believe. But you've actually been handed a golden opportunity.
"How I used to envy the pretty girls when I was young. The graceful ice-skaters. The beautiful dancers. I was quite plain myself.
Crooked teeth. Disobedient hair. A disgrace and a public danger on the dance floor.
I thought they had everything and that I had nothing. I burrowed into books while they frolicked. And how very glad I am that I did. Because now, when their bodies are failing them, they have no mental life to support them. I pity them. There are quite a few of them here."