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A Lifetime in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung: A Memoir
Narrated by: Catherine Byers
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins

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"I live with a stable of nightmares," Martha Mason writes, "but hope keeps them in harness."

Some might wonder how Martha could have clung to hope at all. In 1948, on the day of the funeral of her adored older brother, Gaston, a quick victim of the great polio epidemic, Martha was struck with the same dreaded disease.

After a year in polio hospitals, she was sent back to her home in the village of Lattimore in the cotton-growing hills of western North Carolina. She was completely paralyzed, with only her head protruding from an 800-pound yellow metal cylinder that breathed for her. Doctors told her parents that she likely wouldn't live for more than a year.

But the doctors hadn't counted on Martha's will, or the hope that drives her still.

An avid reader, she dreamed of being a writer, and after finishing high school in her iron lung, she went on to nearby Gardner-Webb College, then to Wake Forest University, where she was graduated first in her class and elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

After college, Martha attempted to begin a career as a writer, dictating to her mother, who had devoted her own life to Martha's care. But her father suffered a massive heart attack, leaving him, too, an invalid. Her mother, caring for both, had little time for Martha's dictation.

Technology revived Martha's dream. A voice-activated computer allowed her to write without assistance. She got it early in 1994 in a time of great despair. A devastating stroke had altered her mother's personality, causing her to turn on Martha, and eventually to revert to childhood. Martha had to become her mother's keeper, and to run a household from her iron lung.

To help her deal with the crisis, Martha began writing about her mother's selfless love. As she wrote, she found herself telling her own story, without self-pity or sentimentality, and with her usual courage, grace, and humor.

Breath will make readers laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It is a breathtaking memoir, a powerful testament to the human spirit, and it proves Martha Mason to be a writer whose voice is likely to be long remembered.

©2003 the Estate of Martha Mason, Foreword copyright 2010 by Anne Rivers Siddons (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • sharon
  • 11-04-13

What an amazing story

This is quite an unusual book.It is about a woman named Martha Mason who spent @ 50 years in an iron lung after coming down with Polio in the early 50"s . She lived in a in a little town in the south. She graduated from college,ran a book discussion group and hosted dinners all while confined to an iron lung in her home. Her selfless loving father and mother supported her in a lifetime of achievement. The narration was perfect.Do not miss this inspiring life story.

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  • TeamTerese
  • 17-05-18

Beautiful and inspiring

I think an excellent way to summarize this book is by remembering one of Martha’s own quotes. She said something to the effect of, “ doesn’t matter what happens to us but it’s how we react to it that matters.” She lived up to these words throughout her amazing life in a way few of us could. I cannot imagine anyone not being inspired by her in this story that is skillfully and beautifully told.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean
  • 19-04-14

Narrator almost spoils a wonderful story.

What did you like best about Breath? What did you like least?

Martha Mason's life story is very worth knowing, and her description of the small town atmosphere and helping community is heart-warming. Parts of her writing are well done, but her stretch to use all she learned in her college writing courses shows. A good editor might have helped with this book, and it's too bad she lost writing experience when her father needed her mother's help.

Would you be willing to try another one of Catherine Byers’s performances?

No. In this book it was wooden and didn't flow. Maybe she deserves a second chance, but I'd listen carefully to the preview first.

Any additional comments?

I wish Audible's "chapters" coincided with the book's. Would it be too expensive to have a Table of Contents that directed the listener to a specific chapter in the book even if it were in the middle of the download's 'chapters'?

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Doug H
  • 24-12-16

Not really inspiring for a self help book

Would you try another book from Martha Mason and/or Catherine Byers?

Well written, not nicely read and it turned out to be a biography of someone unknown, rather than an inspiring self help book,
By the way, the Part 2 is a repetition of Part 1 !!!

How did the narrator detract from the book?

The narrator's style of reading was not to my liking.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment from it not being an inspiring book, but rather a narration of someone unknown's life.

Any additional comments?

Eliminate Part 2 because it is a repetition of Part 1 !!!