Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
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Paris, France
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December 31
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Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
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www.alysasalzberg.com
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A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out www.alysasalzberg.com.

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Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 11, 2012 3:45PM

One Oser's vision

Rate: 13 Flag

OSer Ingrid Ricks’ new memoir FOCUS starts out like a nightmare:  During a routine eye exam, she’s told the slight vision problems she’s been having might be more than just a side effect of getting older.  Another examination reveals that she has retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an incurable disease that means her field of vision will gradually get smaller and smaller, until it disappears.

FOCUS is a brutally honest book. Ingrid takes us through the days following her diagnosis, which were a fog of despair and isolation.  When some people get bad news, they crumple and stay that way.  But as Ingrid’s first memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story showed, she can take a lot and still rise up with a smile.  Then, it was a childhood plagued by a restrictive religion, an often-absent but beloved father, and a cruel stepfather.   But what, I found myself thinking, could make someone not only accept a condition like RP, but even come to find a bright side to it? 

I feel bad for doubting Ingrid.  In FOCUS, she takes us to Africa, where, on a trip to write an article about an AIDS charity, the heartbreaking scenes of suffering that she witnesses give her a new perspective on her diagnosis.  Back home in the US, she goes on a new journey: to accept and understand RP, and to do what she can to manage it and slow its progress.  In the process, she’ll come to terms with her past, change her relationship with her husband, find out how much her family loves her, and find freedom in being open about her condition.  Ultimately, this degenerative eye disease makes her see the world differently, but not in the way she expected.

FOCUS is one of those books that’s simultaneously one person’s story, and everyone’s story.  As I read, I rooted for Ingrid, hoping she’d find happiness and health – and at the same time, there were so many things that made me think about my own life, my own actions and reactions.  Something I found especially moving was a scene where Ingrid, who’d been keeping her RP secret from most people, drops her cell phone on the floor of her gym changing room.  A woman next to her keeps telling her it’s right in front of her, and starts to get frustrated that Ingrid can’t see it.   Though my condition is very different from Ingrid’s, the whole situation made me think of things I experienced before openly telling people I have IBS – or even now, when someone just doesn’t or won’t understand or accept my illness. 

I think FOCUS can bring so much comfort to so many people – not just in the way I’ve described, but as a beacon of hope, an example of what the human spirit is capable of.  As Ingrid tries to find new treatment options, you find yourself cheering her on, and relating in some deep-down way.  It’s the triumph of hope over fear, of knowledge over ignorance. 

FOCUS could have been a bleak account of one woman’s descent into darkness. Instead, it radiates light and hope.  Finishing it, I didn’t feel sad or somber – instead, I felt a sort of peace, the same peace that Ingrid has found.  I’d recommend this book to so many people, for so many reasons.  It’s about being sick, it’s about being human, it’s about being strong, it’s about loving and being loved.  It’s about looking at the world and seeing it for what it is, even when you didn’t think you’d see much at all.

___________________________________________________________________________

You can read the first chapter of FOCUS on Ingrid’s OS blog.  The book is available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo e-readers, as well as in physical form as a paperback.

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Ty for the review. I will look into Focus. R
I just finished reading it this past week. Wonderful book and excellent review, Alysa. The chapter on the Africa trip was especially sobering. As I told Ingrid, I began reading it just as our power went off, so I spent the next four nights in near-total darkness, which seemed an appropriate time to engage the subject. PS: I hope she sells a million copies, because she's a terrific person, as well as a perceptive writer.
Thanks for this excellent review, Alysa. Ingrid sold me on Ingrid Ricks, the spunky, resilient tomboy, in her first book, and, while I'm saddened to learn of her illness, I look forward to another engaging, inspiring read by this amazing woman.
Alysa - thank you for your beautiful words and the friendship and support you've given me over the past two years. That's my take away from my journey - that what matters is friendships, family, this moment. And I'm so grateful for you.

And Cranky - the same goes with you. It's amazing to feel such a connection with people I've not met. And I'm so GLAD you are back in the light.

Chicken -- your words have put the hugest smile on my face. Thank you for this -- and for taking the time to read Hippie Boy. Above all, I've learned that we all have issues that we are struggling with. And we just need to keep going and embrace life for what it is, right? (and be nice to each other.

Trudge164 -- thank you.
Alysa - thank you for your beautiful words and the friendship and support you've given me over the past two years. That's my take away from my journey - that what matters is friendships, family, this moment. And I'm so grateful for you.

And Cranky - the same goes with you. It's amazing to feel such a connection with people I've not met. And I'm so GLAD you are back in the light.

Chicken -- your words have put the hugest smile on my face. Thank you for this -- and for taking the time to read Hippie Boy. Above all, I've learned that we all have issues that we are struggling with. And we just need to keep going and embrace life for what it is, right? (and be nice to each other.

Trudge164 -- thank you.
Sounds good, will have to go check it out!!!

Rated!!!
I have been waiting for it to come out in paperback. (It was originally just on Kindle.) She is a marvelous writer, and I loved "Hippie Boy."
Thanks for this, Alysa. ~r
Splendid! Something new to read with real merit!
Thank you, Alyssa
R
What an incredible surprise to log on to OS and see that your review of FOCUS has been featured, Alysa. Thank you again for your incredible words.

Tinkerertink69 and Poor Woman - thank you.

And Joan - xo.
I just love LOVE LOOOoooove Hippie Chick. I have my own book.

But so sad to hear of Ingrid's eyes. I pray and hope for the best.
Have you written on your IBS? If you have can you PM me the links? That is if you CAN PM. It took me three tries just to get this comment on here.
I just love LOVE LOOOoooove Hippie Boy. I have my own book.

But so sad to hear of Ingrid's eyes. I pray and hope for the best.
Have you written on your IBS? If you have can you PM me the links? That is if you CAN PM. It took me three tries just to get this comment on here.
Great review- and it got me caught up on Ingrid's accomplishment with this book.
Alysa, I love what you've written! I am so looking forward to reading Ingrid's books, and even giving them for Christmas. We all go through such challenges, and the insight you show and that Ingrid shows are so needed in this time when so many blatently ignorant people are vocal. (Re: doc vega whose irrelevant nasty comment should be deleted...)