On the very first page of A Million Ordinary Days, Judy Mollen Walters’ latest novel, I realized that the protagonist, Allison Wheeler, has a physical disability.
Here is the sentence:
Allison Wheeler felt the buzz in her foot the moment before her alarm sounded, waking her out of her best dreams ever.
A Million Ordinary Days
This is how I knew Allison had Multiple Sclerosis.
I have become acquainted with MS, not because I have it, but because one of my very dearest friends does. My friend Cathy was diagnosed with 30 years ago after an experience with numbness in her foot. She was walking on the sidewalk of New York City and actually stepped out of her shoe without being aware of it.
Allison has the same issue with her foot, along with other symptoms that are on the spectrum of MS. Like Cathy, some days Allison feels ok, and others, it is hard to get out of bed. Some days she feels like her body is betraying her and is frustrated over her inability to control it.
But also like Cathy, Allison is fiercely independent and refuses to let a disability disable her. She has a job she loves, two daughters she cares for, and an unwillingness to surrender to this disease that threatens to take away her quality of life.
In Allison’s familial orbit, there is her ex-husband, who is still involved and supportive, a teenage daughter applying to college, and an older daughter living many miles away. Each family member is concerned about Allison but at the same time wrapped up in his or her own life.
At work, Allison is a passionate social worker helping unwed pregnant teens. She is devoted to her clients, perhaps even more attentive to them than to her own daughters. As her condition worsens, she struggles to cope with the limitations that are impacting her performance on the job. At first, she is in denial, refusing to acknowledge the progression of her disease. But the setbacks that used to resolve quickly are now lingering, forcing her to deal with her prognosis.
Walters paints a realistic portrait of the impact of having a chronic illness, and the ripples it causes within a family. Her characters are believable, people you swear you have met in real life.
I enjoyed reading A Million Ordinary Days. I liked seeing the evolution of each character and their relationship to one another. I also like the cover image which conveys a subtle melancholy about the content. But this is not a depressing book at all. Rather, it is a story of perseverance and hope.
For anyone with MS or any disability, it will resonate strongly.
I received a copy of A Million Ordinary Days for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.