Dancing in the Narrows– A book about trial and triumph
My review of Dancing in the Narrows discusses the heart-wrenching story of a mother and daughter making their way through the uncharted waters of chronic illness. This story serves as a powerful reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healing. We must open our hearts and minds in order to fully recover. If you’re like me, you need to be willing to challenge your own healing methods and preferences while reading this book. So consider this your review from the ‘other’ side. That being said, let’s dive right into my thoughts.
Anna Penenberg is a fantastic writer
The stories she shared about her own personal life had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what would happen next. She’s interesting, quirky, and real; her relatability immediately pulled me in. She’s a therapist, and I HAVE a therapist! Her kid is struggling with a debilitating chronic illness, my kid is struggling with a debilitating mental illness. We both had to fight, HARD, for a diagnosis. Which turned out to only be the starting line.
Her memoir reads like a true odyssey. It’s never dull and as soon as you think you know what might happen next, you are thrown way, WAY, off. She balances stories of her own life with the journey she shared with her daughter gracefully. This book is truly hard to put down; however, the ending left me wanting. I had to remind myself that this was a memoir written of a life still being lived. Thank goodness both Anna and her daughter have websites that I can visit! In a world full of Kardashian crap reading about lives like Anna’s and Dana’s (And Cayla’s!) is a breath of fresh air. We need more people like this. Honest, real, and willing to show the hard stuff.
Review of Dancing in the Narrows– it hits home on many levels
All three women in this story are relatable. Anna is the amazing woman losing herself in the fight for her child. Dana is the medical mystery and chronically ill girl. And Cayla is the girl who loves foreign worlds and is self-sufficient and strong. Personally, I have fulfilled all 3 roles so far in my life and none of them are easy. Any mother who reads this book will find herself in the pages amongst these three women.
In Dana’s struggle with Chronic Lyme Disease, we are reminded that it truly takes a village when life throws you a curveball. Anna was forced to give up her career for years. Dana was forced to put off college and miss many milestones that we cherish as young adults. They even sold their family home. None of this is easy, or cheap, and when I asked Anna about it she reminded me of the importance of community, support groups, and research foundations.
It can be so easy to hide, fall into debt, and give up when faced with something so monstrous as a chronic illness. This book offers so much hope for those of us currently struggling. It is a powerful reminder that we CAN make it through difficulty. We can dance in our own narrows. Just as the butterfly on the cover symbolizes, not only can we make it through, but we can become something beautiful in the process.
Two moms living in two different worlds
Anna and I are about as different as two mothers can get. She has two grown girls; I have two little boys. She is a healer who works with families to develop proper movement; I am an engineer turned stay-at-home mom who swears too much. While she dances and does yoga, I run and kickbox. She listens to gentle acoustic guitars while I listen to heavy metal remixes of pop songs. Literally, if it were not for this book I doubt we would ever cross paths. Reading her memoir, however, taught me so very much and opened my eyes to a world I had never considered. I am so grateful to have found her.
The ways that we differ are immense, but for the purpose of this review, our approach to illness is what stands out the most. Where she would turn first is where I would turn last and vice versa. In fact, when I asked her if she regretted any of the treatments they pursued the only one on her maybe list was the antibiotics. Honestly, antibiotics might have been the only treatment I even tried! It was very eye-opening for me!
This story challenged me to reexamine my own approach
While reading the responses Anna sent to my (probably awkward) questions, one of her responses really intrigued me. I had asked her what advice she has for those of us seeking answers (Like myself for my son) and she responded with:
“The question may be about what is irritating the system? What is out of balance? Some children with these diagnoses have sensory integration issues. And lastly, it may be of interest to know about his birth and how something there may be a clue to what is needed. “-Anna Penenberg
Throughout the entire book, it was hard not to think about my own son. We had worked so hard for a diagnosis and we are currently walking a razor-thin line with his medications. The quote above has stuck with me. Before reading Dancing in the Narrows I hadn’t stretched much past chiropractic care in terms of holistic treatment of my son’s Bipolar Disorder. But now, I am going to look. This book was a powerful reminder that medication is NOT always the answer and that maybe the condition itself isn’t what needs to be treated. I will still medicate my son, but I am excited to learn more about how we can help him.
Dancing in the Narrows is a great read for all
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if your child is completely ‘normal’ or if they have a chronic or mental illness. Every parent can benefit from reading this book. Not only because it highlights the struggles parents of chronically ill children face, but because it addresses the PARENT. Who do WE become in this fight? How do WE survive? Because no matter how much we love our children, we are still people too. And we must also find ways to cope and thrive. Dancing in the Narrows will have a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I see myself turning to it in times of doubt while raising my son.
This book is also a great read for those of us with chronic illnesses. It’s a great way to view the journey from a caregiver’s eyes. While reading this book I often thought of my own parents dealing with divorce at the same time as my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. It really helped open my eyes to what they may have been going through.
But it’s not over yet!
While I may have finished the book, and provided a review of Dancing in the Narrows, the Penenberg family story continues! Anna shared with me that both Cayla and Dana are doing fantastic as a graphic designer and practitioner of Craniosacral Therapy and Reiki respectively. Hearing this just made my heart soar for their family!
Anna herself continues her work with adults and families while also speaking about her new book to help bring hope and inspiration to her readers. I would say that she has definitely succeeded in doing so with me!
What you should do now
Read the book! I also encourage you to visit both Anna’s and Dana’s sites in order to follow their journeys and learn about all of the very cool things they do!
For your own copy of Dancing in the Narrows, you can grab it here: