Books: Martha Carter reviews 'All The Difference', by Patricia Horvath


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.
-- Robert Frost

As soon as I started reading Patricia Horvath’s book, All the Difference, I could not put it down. I almost felt like I was reading my own scoliosis story! Another teenage girl, just like I was, reminiscing about her own version of the same, tortuous, early version of the Harrington Rod surgery I had to go through. I could hardly believe it!

It was both wonderful and startling to read her words and realize they could have been mine. Of course many details were different, in both our procedures and our personal lives, but her descriptions of all the same uncomfortable bracing, confining traction, post-surgery stryker frame, awful plaster casts, and much, much more, were incredibly familiar.

A talented storyteller, Patricia has a gifted way of reflecting on her difficult past with equal parts serious and sassy. There is always a touch of humour, even when she describes the most horrible experiences. She made me laugh when her writing conjured up the many buried memories of my own experiences - especially reminding me that it was as bad as I remember! Ha!

Major similarities were how we both spent our year at home away from school at age 14, lying flat in impossible plaster casts. Friends were replaced by tutors and older caretakers, as our siblings reluctantly changed our bedpans. We both had medical moments where we felt like we were being treated as an object or a piece of meat. We both at times felt weakened, lesser, disabled, unempowered, invisible.

Her descriptions are palpable. Visceral.

And as the narrative unfolds, her open-hearted accounts of her coming of age moments uncover her lessons learned, her persistence to get stronger, to be herself, to become empowered; to be seen.

She says it all when she writes:

“There was no other way to be than what I was.”

Her story also reminds me, once again, that there are many of us who have endured a similar fate. And, as it happens, it is only with time and perspective that she has been able to see her past with new eyes and new understanding - to see her own journey with love and compassion.

Her words remind me that I must do the same.

Thanks Patricia :)