When I asked Linda K. Olson if she’d ever seen herself writing a book, she laughed and said no. Not that people haven’t suggested it pretty often. “It’s been 41 years since I was injured, and for probably 35 of those people said, ‘oh you’ve got to write a book,’” said Olson, who at 29 was in van that was hit by a train, resulting in the loss of both legs and one arm. “I would say, ‘no, I don’t need to write a book, I’ve got a good life, I’m busy.’”
And busy she was. When she was injured, Olson was just at the start of her medical career. After taking off a year to recover, she finished her training and worked for three decades as a radiologist. If anything, this work discouraged any creativity of the written kind. “I spent 30 years making very short, terse reports,” Olson said. “No flowery words, no ifs, ands, or buts.”
In “Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life,” Olson chronicles recovery, rehabilitation, and getting on with things. Newly married when she was hurt, she went on to have two children after the accident, kids who grew up accustomed to sitting on their mother’s lap in her wheelchair. She was surprised when both her daughter and her son wrote about her disability and its impact on them.
“We’d never really talked about my disability,” Olson said. “Obviously they grew up with it, and it’s second nature to them.” Reading their words helped inspire her to write about it as well.
“The reason I avoided writing all these years was that I thought we just had an everyday normal life and there was nothing out of the ordinary about it,” she said. “And then I thought, maybe what people need to see is how good a life you can have despite a disability or a chronic illness.”
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.