Dr. Bob’s Book Reviews

Wounded Healers

Reviews on Books by Giffords & Kelly, Christopher Reeve,
Richard Chamberlain, and Jacques Lusseyran follow below.

Bllue Cord

The Blue Cord

  by Laurel Duran
DuirSoul Books, Santa Fe, NM, 1995

“May we draw from the bosom of our fruitful Mother,
the life force of creation, that we may be as the chalice,
a vessel to carry the power of thy healing love.”

Laurel Duran has quite a story to tell. Even though her experience is decades old [I just discovered the book a few weeks ago], Ms. Duran shares many timeless, touching qualities in The Blue Cord.

Laurel weaves her multi-dimensional narrative with many threads including ones related to a previous lifetime. She makes the reader feel like a first-hand witness when she suffers a broken neck in an auto mishap on Breakneck Road in Massachusetts. The Blue Cord is personal, honest, and candid. It is also thoughtful, engaging, and inspiring at times. Amazingly, there are moments of humor spread through the pages.

Laurel recognizes her trauma as no “accident,” but as an opportunity and gift from God with whom she has an out-of-body encounter and near-death experience at the moment of impact. She then discovers, “Love is the only thing that is real. That’s all there is. The rest is nothing.”

Even while that major trauma occurred early in her recovery from alcoholism, Ms. Duran appears fearless as well as courageous while hospitalized for weeks. Her neck is fused and placed in a halo crown. At the same time, her whole body from the neck down is paralyzed until she slowly recovers feeling and mobility.

Still she remains outgoing and caring for friends and family, fellow patients and hospital workers. Within weeks still limited by her halo cast, Laurel reaches out to touch a man named Carlos to give him some relief from the ailment in his own disturbed body. Ms. Duran uses skills learned as a massage therapist and others gained as a sensitive human being to help many around her. She begins to refashion a life torn into pieces at the time.

But, recuperation is not all roses and incense as she meets a number of less than compassionate nurses and physicians at the Rehab Hospital. Laurel stands up for herself and is ready to be released from the hospital before authorities are ready to boot her out.

By the latter pages of the book, the reader-reviewer wondered if Ms. Duran could manage to tie loose threads in the narrative. But, she does in winning fashion.

The writer shares a Druidic prayers twice in her book which is worth repeating here:

“May we draw from the bosom of our fruitful Mother,
the life force of creation, that we may be as the chalice,
a vessel to carry the power of thy healing love.”

We wonder if there will be a sequel to The Blue Cord.
Comments may be emailed to theportableschool at gmail dot com. 

Giffords and Kelly


by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly
Scribner, NY, NY, 2011.

“I think it comes down to this. We are here to care for each other.”
Gabrielle Giffords

Gabby is in many ways a love story written by Mark Kelly to his wife, Gabrielle Giffords. But, the book is also about a whole lot of things of interest in the current times.

Gabby was authored by Mark Kelly with the ghostwriting help of Jeffrey Zaslow and tells the stories of the converging lives of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and astronaut Mark Kelly. Their growing-up years and adult days are deftly interwoven around the tragic shooting of January 2011 in which 6 were killed, and 15 injured including Giffords maimed for life with a blast at close range to her head.

Both Giffords were hard-charging, patriotic, serving Americans – and still are. But, their lives were already changing prior to that incident – and dramatically changed thereafter. Before the event, Gabby had a sense of the nastiness which seethed around her political world, sensing it was “almost like people are going to get violent.” And, they did. And, one killer acted so on that fateful day.

While Gabrielle was growing into the shoes of a politician, Kelly was growing out of his career as a Navy pilot flying over Iraq as well as his later occupation as an astronaut. Interestingly, his twin brother Mark followed the same path as Navy pilot and NASA astronaut. During the early days after Giffords’s injury, Kelly commanded the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its last flight. It was also Commander Kelly’s space mission. He has been grounded since.

Kelly adoringly describes meeting Gabrielle, who only became Gabby after the shooting. He tells of their cross-country courtship and their wedding. He engraved her wedding ring with the words: “You’re the closet to heaven that I’ve ever been.”

Kelly spends little time on the shooting, and almost none on the shooter whom he does not identify. But, his focus is the intertwining of the couple’s lives, their works and their challenges. After the tragedy, he slowly comes to believe that it was fated to happen and that good can come from the horrific incident. He also finds himself required to learn patience.

The book was written only a few months along Gabrielle’s recovery and rehabilitation. But, even then she appeared as extraordinary. Kelly tells that 95 percent of people experiencing such wounds die immediately. While “the brain is still a mystery,” Gabrielle was regaining most of her usual abilities. After she was forced to resign from Congress, Giffords and Kelly have become voices for gun control.

Astronaut Kelly is now long retired from the Navy and NASA, and is a contender for the United States Senate in the 2020 elections. Gabrielle will be at his side while he follows a political path similar to one she traveled to find a seat the US Congress. Along the way, the couple has been healing their wounds. But it is also clear, that Gabby’s trauma has stimulated healing in Arizona and in the whole country.

Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly will bring a similar force in the near time to Washington, DC. One sorely needed. Their story is highly recommended.

Send comments to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Chris Reeve

Still Me

by Christopher Reeve
Ballantine Books, NY, NY, 1998.

It ain’t easy being Superman. Of course, it’s not easy being human. But, take on the role of Superman and you are likely to be drawn into extra life challenges sooner or later.

Chris Reeve surely didn’t know what was ahead of him as he navigated his youth. He admitted that he then “tried to be as perfect as possible.” In fact, Reeve seemed to excel at most everything he tried along the way. That even though he had at times his own wonders and anxieties.

Reeve managed growing up years in the midst of family separations. His bent to do better and best were well displayed as he traveled the path to become an actor. Chris got breaks and doors opened for him in television, theater and movies.

Reeve had extraordinary gifts few of us will know. He revealed one in telling the interesting story of how he was able to learn lines while acting in the soap opera Love of Life. Chris must have had some memory to draw upon in the midst of a very busy acting life. For he was able to pick up his lines each morning while taking the 30-minute subway ride to the television studio.

Chris met and starred with numerous celebrities at an early age. Robin Williams, a fellow student at Juilliard, became a best friend, as well as William Hurt. Reeve seems to have adored Katharine Hepburn. Even though she was not always adorable.

Between acting jobs and relationships, Superman found time and opportunity to take up sailing, flying, sailplaning, and horsemanship. Like acting, he was good at all those activities. But, one moment in 1995 cost him his freedom and his health.

At an equestrian competition, Reeve’s horse made a sudden halt before a jump and his rider was thrown onto his head. Chris sustained damage high in his cervical spine and spent the next nine years as a quadriplegic. He then confronted the fragility and unpredictability of life face-to-face every day. Reeve had to stare all sorts of terrors, fears, and shames.

Christopher Reeve’s memoir is candid and honest. It is also understandably depressing at times. Fortunately upbeat at others. Superman was not to be “tied down” for long. He passed through the initial trauma, surgeries, and rehabilitation to return to his home, wife Dana, and son Will, within a few months.

It seems, like many actors, even Superman can be shy and reserved. While forcing himself to deal with his unimaginable injury, he emerged while in rehab to visit other patients and meet new and different people. Reeve found that everyone has “something to offer.” And before long, he recognized himself as a “poster boy” for research and treatment of neurological diseases and injuries.

Still paralyzed in all limbs and requiring a ventilator most of the time, Chris took on new major roles speaking at meetings to promote his new cause. He got involved with legislators and government-funded medical programs. At the time of his writing Still Me, Superman also had found his way back into the movies, acting in a remake of Rear Window and directing In the Gloaming.

While he could only move his head, he went through the paces every day with his aides and helpers to keep his disconnected body in some reasonable shape. He also did wide study into efforts being made to “re-connect” spinal cord injuries.

Christopher Reeve relied on faith in science rather than in medicine. He was convinced that medical science and research would rise to the challenge and that Superman would walk again by his 50th birthday.

Reeve died at age 52, hopes unmet. But, he left warm personal impressions in his book and fine cinematic ones including that of Superman. Still Me is well written and a worthwhile read.

Send comments to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

Richard Chamberlain

Shattered Love

by Richard Chamberlain
Harper Collins, NY, NY, 2003.

Richard Chamberlain’s memoir tells of a man in search of love and of truth and of himself. Chamberlain comes across as a man growing wise, who nevertheless finds it hard to apply his own learnings along the way.

He always felt the odd member in his family, the challenged one, a person ruled by inner fears of unworthiness and low self-esteem. In other words a “near perfect neurotic nobody.” Still, his challenges veiled a clear sense of spiritual possibilities. So from early on, he has been a seeker.

At the same time Chamberlain managed to become a charismatic, successful actor. He was mesmerizing, enchanting, and attractive to so many film and television viewers.

In his acting life, Chamberlain found himself in “the complex position of having to improvise not as myself … but as the character Perfect Richard that I was already playing full-time in life.”

Fortunately, he had friends and fellow actors who supported him and spoke to him in words similar to the following: “Richard, Richard, you are so handsome, so charming, please stop ‘acting’ and just be yourself.”

This was a large lesson repeatedly brought to him.

Love was early on a complicated issue for Chamberlain recognized himself attracted to men and moved into gay identity. All lives appear complicated. Some are in fact much more so.

Nonetheless, Richard Chamberlain grew and is still in his 80s growing into wider awarenesses like:

“We’re all just beings living and learning and hopefully loving and creating and playing as best we can in a pretty tough world.”

“Until you embrace your own existence, you have no context in which to love another person or the world or indeed life itself.”
“What is at each moment, no matter how magnificent, boring, or devastating, is where divinity lives. I think every atom of existence is sacred.”

This reviewer considers Chamberlain as a Wounded Healer. Despite many wounds, Richard has also shared gifts of joy and truth, learning and healing through his long public career. We recommend this book to compassionate and sensitive readers.

Send comments to theportableschool at gmail dot com.


And There Was Light

by Jacques Lusseyran

Morning Light Press, Sandpoint, ID, 2006.
First published by Little Brown & Co, 1963.

This book is all about Light and so seems to be the life of Jacques Lusseyran. From very early years Jacques was aware of another Being who “concerned himself with me.” He was also in touch with an omnipresent radiance, that he was “eating the sun,” and that nothing exists outside the miracle of light.

Jacques was a wise Frenchman born to academic parents in Paris in the interlude between the World Wars. He obviously had inner gifts which few children and maybe fewer adults express.

His close relationship with the Light served him well especially when he was blinded by an accident at the age of eight. One eye had to be removed and then the other lost vision because of what was called sympathetic ophthalmia. Yet soon after recovery from the injury, Jacques was exultant and “thanked heaven every day for my blindness.”

Building upon earlier awarenesses firmly implanted in him, Jacques realized that 

• there was a seeing eye within him
• everything in the world has a voice and speaks
• currents of life flow among tree branches
• even stones are alive
• the outside world is a mirror of the inner one
• sounds and colors interchange endlessly

All these wonderful discoveries and more came to benefit him and his fellows in a large way when Germany invaded France in 1940. Jacques was then a bright, talented student who was making his way through the French school system to its upper levels and collecting all sorts of friends along the way. As a matter of course, he and his fellows were forced to face the fact that information on the War was being suppressed by the occupiers. So, they took on a part of the Resistance movement by publishing and distributing a their own newspaper through Paris and beyond.

Jacques became the center of a Resistance group. A student by day and Resistance worker by night, he played a keen role to appraise fellow Frenchmen and women of the facts of the war. Jacques interviewed all prospective members of the group with a single co-worker at his side. He was able to “read” and “see” what others could not, so as to admit only trustworthy compatriots to the work. Jacques almost had a wonderful memory and kept 1050 telephone numbers locked in his mind which could not be stolen or misused.

Jacques upheld his part almost flawlessly until early 1944 when an informer broke their Resistance structure. Many of his hundreds of co-worker were captured and shuttled off to concentration camps. Monsieur Lusseyran was shipped with 2000 others in 100 stuffed railcars to Buchenwald. When the camp was liberated 15 months later, only 30 of that 2000 were still alive.

And There Was Light is a quite wonderful story in which Lusseyran details his upbringing, education, work in the Resistance, and months in the concentration camp. Most especially, it is one man’s revelation of his active, expressive, sacrificial experience of using contacts with the inner world to make the outer one better.

After the war, Jacques finished his studies and became a University professor in America. He died along with his wife in an auto accident in Hawaii when he was 46 years old.

Send comments to theportableschool at gmail dot com.

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