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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,594 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
"There was something special about my child... I knew it from the moment she was born... A minute morsel, she weighed under two pounds, and measured nine inches from the tip of her tiny head to her infinitesimal toes.... I lay back still, bathed in happiness. It was like a brittle shell, this happiness, and I felt that motion or sound might shatter it.... I could still fee ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 286 pages
Published August 15th 1980 by Laurel Leaf (first published 1952)
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Joan Marie, Karen's mother, started realizing something was wrong at well under a year of age. It took them a long time to get an actual diagnosis as I…moreMarie, Karen's mother, started realizing something was wrong at well under a year of age. It took them a long time to get an actual diagnosis as I recall.(less)
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Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A hospital, for most people, is a robber's den, holding them hostage and appropriating something before releasing them--an appendix, tonsils, or pounds of flesh after an illness." (p.13) How true!
Lisa Vegan
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy biographies, those interested in disabilities
I reread this book multiple times. It’s the true story of a girl (with cerebral palsy) and her family, written by the mother, who knows how to tell an interesting story. This was in the era before CP was easily diagnosed and well before the Americans with Disabilities Rights Act. I found it inspiring.
If I consider Marie Killilea's true story about her daughter Karen's struggle with a severe form of cerebral palsy simply on the basis of how I personally feel with regard to my emotions (how the account has affected and continues to affect my heart and soul), Karen is most definitely a shining and glowing five star book. For aside from the wondrous truth that how the Killilea family as a whole comes sweetly and lastingly together to fight not only for Karen, but for CP patients in general is bo ...more
Rebecca McNutt
Karen is a really gripping and shocking but ultimately uplifting story filled with spirit and originality.
Aug 09, 2008 added it
In middle school, during my melodrama phase, I loved this book. Karen is a girl who had cerebral palsy in the 1950s and 1960s when her parents pretty much had to make up treatment, and one doctor told them to put Karen in an institution and let her die. The mother started organizing around CP. As a child I remember thinking that they seem very close and loving. There were also very devote Pre-Vatican II Catholics, which kind of fascinated me.

I re-read this as an adult and it's a little creepy. I
Aug 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, along with the sequel (With Love from Karen) were assigned reading in my nursing school pediatric rotation. It had never occurred to me to not accept handicapped people in life - in my grade school there were twin sisters affected by CP and severe learning disabilities that were simply a part of life. So were the children with residual damage from polio and partially deaf from ear infections. They were just part of my life. When I discovered that parents had to fight to get some educa ...more
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, for-gracie-maybe
This is one of those classic books that deserves a 5 star review. For the inspiring story that it is, for the superb writing, the humor, grit, honesty and the history behind it as well. Marie Killilea tells the story of her daughter Karen, who was born with cerebral palsy in the early 1940's, a time when PT and OT services were virtually non-existent. The story includes anecdotes, conversations, struggles, and also a parallel story of how Mrs. Killilea helped found the National United Cerebral P ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This dog-eared book that I read sometime in the late 1970's continues to be a perennial favorite. Written by the mother who helped form the Cerebral Palsy Association, it tells of the struggles of parents faced with an exceptional child trapped in a disabled body and doctors who recommended "putting her away" and "forgetting" about her. The struggles and hopes of this family will make you laugh, cry and beleive in the human spirit. You don't have to be Catholic to read this, but it helps. This l ...more
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a biography of her daughter, and in places almost an autobiography, by a woman with a severely handicapped daughter.
It was intensely engaging to me then, and holds up now to re-reading.
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this back in the 6th grade. I didn't read much then, but this book had a huge impact on me, such that I still remember it today. It is the story of a girl growing up with cerebral palsy, all that her mother did for her, and the success of her life.
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who needs to learn compassion
Recommended to Joan by: Aunt Florence
I received this from a favorite Aunt in Montreal as a child. I have no idea how many times I read this but it could be in 3 digits. It certainly is high up in two digits! It didn't occur to me for many years why my Aunt had picked this particular book and its sequel to give me. I have multiple disabilities and could relate in many ways to Karen more than many people. Like her I had multiple surgeries, including on my hips as a child. Since my parents over protected me, I strongly suspect my wise ...more
Gina Giuliano
Aug 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in children with special needs
I first read this book when I was about 12. At the time, it interested me, but I didn't really identify with the family. I decided to re-read it as an adult. I felt differently about it the second time around. As a kid, I imagined Karen (who was born with CP) as my age - because in the book, she was. Now I realize that she was born in 1940, and by the time I read the book, she was already an adult. I also missed the fact that her mother had such a huge role in raising awareness and access to ser ...more
Every time I read my copy, I'm blown away by Karen's story. She overcame so much to achieve a productive life after her parents were told to leave her in an institution and forget they ever had her. The family as a whole provided support and hope for thousands of other families struggling with CP and without the Killileas, development of CP devices and surgeries would have been held back for many decades. Even without all of that, you will fall in love with the entire family. I wish I knew where ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm actually reading this for the third time since I was in junior high school. I love the family, sophisticated New York suburbanites and deeply devout Roman Catholics. Mrs. Killilea was a force of nature to accomplish what she did, all disguised as a self-deprecating housewife. (Everytime she lit up another cigarette,though, I wanted to knock it out of her hand and tell her she would end up dying of lung cancer later in life.) Mr. and Mrs. K remained deeply in love despite raising five childre ...more
I read (and have reread over and over) this when I was young and it sent me on a journey towards my career. I think all parents of a child with a disability should read it because, while it is outdated, the fact that Karen's Mom spent every day helping Karen succeed-never gets old. When I meet parents with the mind-set of Marie Killilea- their children always are the ones that gain the most skills and succeed in life.
Cora Lee
I loved this book when I was a child. It opened my eyes to a world outside my own and taught me about compassion and determination to overcome obstacles. I reread it almost every time I went home from college.
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written in the 50's (?), I just couldn't seem to really get into this book again. I read it when I was a lot younger, and loved it, but didn't even finish reading it this time. Nothing wrong with it except that it just didn't seem to move along very quickly.
Laurie Gold
Dec 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ya
After seeing a goodreads friend also loved Emmy Keeps a Promise, I decided to add some books I read and loved as a child. This is one of them. I strongly recommend it. I actually hunted down a copy a few years ago and it sits proudly on my bookshelves today.
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Catholic families, families with disabled children, looking for light reading
Recommended to Carrie by: my mother
Such a lovely story about a family who overcame what seemed insurmountable, buoyed by love and their faith in God. You will come to love Karen and the rest of the Killilea family.
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a wonderful book! Published in 1952, a mother's recounting of the birth of her daughter, Karen,who is diagnosed with CP. Very uplifting and energizing. Wish I had found it years ago.
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a child and cried and laughed with Karen and her mother and family. Karen was born with cerebral palsy, it affects muscle tone-- either rigid muscle tone or floppy flaccid muscles. Muscles are not just your extremities so it comes with a whole host of health problems. Treatments have improved and when I reread this I was so happy. Karen is a strong girl in spirit...her goal is to live as normal a life as possible with hard work and even pain. Her mother is relentless in helping he ...more
I remembered reading this as a teen & was happy to find a copy at my library to re-read. It's an inspiring true story of parents who were ahead of their time in seeking to not only help their little girl cope with her CP but also to form parent support & community education groups. They had a strong faith & commitment to their family plus a great sense of humor. Such an example of love that does not seek its own, never gives up, puts others first, and bears all things. A beautiful me ...more
Betty Ast
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about a child struggling with MS and winning!
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. It's well-written, has a sly, somewhat snarky sense of humor that I love in books written many years ago, and is an excellent memoir of early treatment of cerebral palsy in the US.

Much, if not all, of the treatment is outmoded, but I enjoyed reading everything about it--of course, I'm a pediatric PT, so that probably explains it. I picked this up from my Grammy's house many years ago, though, long before I was actually a PT, and still liked it. Those neck-to-toe braces? Go
J Susanne
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book so many years ago that I had to pause to remember where I had been in the timeline of my own life. But, the instant I saw her smiling face on a book list, here, a flood of happy memories of enjoying this book came back to me. Not that it is a "feel good" book, for it is the story of the struggles of a young child as she grows within her limitations.
However, this book had a powerful effect on my own life. I was already in grad school pursuing a master's in Maternal and Child Nursin
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of two or three exceptions to my avoidance of books about kids with special needs. This one, I first read back in junior high. I don't always like or agree with their family beliefs (that disabilities are a gift from God because he only makes those he loves best suffer, for example), and often the family seems too good to be true. But then there's the humor and sarcasm and the familiar fatigue and fear between the lines. I suspect I'd have enjoyed being friends with Marie. And there's no den ...more
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The hard, true story of a family determined to overcome cerebral palsy--in the 1940's. I bought this paperback from one of those weekly-reader kind of pamphlets back in the 1960's, and I pull it out over-and-over again. Having been told by a specialist that China had the perfect answer--they abandon "these" children on the side of a mountain, this family digs in. You discover Karenls IQ is well above 120, and she overcomes, battle by battle, the physical setbacks they tell her are impossible.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A step back into the 1040's when there was no help or knowledge in the medical world when a child is born with Cerebral Palsy.
The true story of a devout Catholic family - and what they do and how they live - as they raise Karen and raise awareness of CP.
The family all come to life, they are vivid. The book is funny and sometimes so poignant and sad.
The mother wrote the book, and hence, the perfection of everyone and how well everyone gets along is probably a tad overdone - but still a good read.
Jun 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bios-memoirs
This is a wonderful chronicle of a young girl and her family struggling to better adversity. Karen was born with Cerebral Palsy and works hard through her whole childhood, as depicted in this book, to make the very best of her life despite her limitations. It's a great story and a heart-warming one. I recommend it to anyone with growing girls.
This says this edition was published in 85 but I'm quite sure I read it before that period in my life..... perhaps there was an earlier edition not mention
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this book several times in my teens, but this was the first time I've picked it up in a long time. I still love it just as much now, especially after the experience of being a special ed teacher and working with a girl who has cerebral palsy. Marie's writing style is fantastic - fun, chatty, and wise. Yes, this book can be a bit heavy on Catholicism, but it's okay - faith is what helped this family cope with insurmountable odds. It was a way to explain what can't be explained - sometimes ...more
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Founder of the Cerebral Palsy Association.

* Marie Lyons Killilea was born June 28, 1913 in New York City to Tom and Marie Powers Lyons.

* Her father was a sportswriter for the New York Sun and later became co-owner of a Wall Street brokerage firm.

* Attended Mount St. Vincent Academy in Riverdale. Attended the Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School.

* Married James Killilea on July 25, 1933. Primary
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