Book Review: New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell


As a toddler, Gail Caldwell was among the last wave of polio victims in America. Although her right leg was affected, she never let the disability hold her back. When her leg became increasingly useless and painful in midlife, she chalked it up to polio – and so did many doctors she saw over the course of years. Finally, one doctor took the time to discover that Caldwell’s hip was almost completely worn down and could be fixed with a simple hip replacement. Thus, she embarked on an unexpected new adventure of mobility at the age of sixty-one.

New Life, No Instructions weaves important events from Caldwell’s life together with the near-present story of her hip replacement. That doesn’t sound very interesting on the surface, but she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner for a reason. This book plumbs the depths of hope, love, loss, and regret. Caldwell lost both parents, her best friend, and her dog within just a few years, and she pays tribute to them while also acknowledging the difficulty (and sometimes futile feelings) of carrying on without them. Her words deeply resonated with and touched me. Ultimately, this memoir is not a downer, but a beautiful picture of the full range of life, a great read for me in my Year of Alive. When I’m in my sixties, I hope to be half as cool and wise.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
Posted on
Posted in book reviews

3 Responses to Book Review: New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell

  1. Carol says:

    This sounds like the kind of book I would enjoy right now. I’ll see if I can get it through my library.

  2. I just posted my review of Caldwell’s book and I loved your last remark about her being wise. If you liked this one, you should read her two earlier books.

Talk To Me