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Review: Story: The Way of Water

Story: The Way of Water
By Anne E. Lenehan
The Communications Agency, 2004
Hardcover, 467 pp.
ISBN 0-9752286-0-9
US$29.95

Be prepared to feel like an underachiever and a slacker no matter what you have accomplished and how hard you have worked. You will wonder how there were enough hours in the day to do everything he has done. The biography of Story Musgrave is truly an unusual book. It tells the story of someone who took a bizarre path to become an astronaut, a path that will probably never be taken by anyone again. It is fitting that it is an unusually structured biography.

Before I read Story: The Way of Water I’m not sure I had any firm expectations about what it would be like. Thinking back on some of the other biographies I’ve read I probably did have some expectations. The first biography I ever read, Rickenbacker, was laid out in a standard chronological form. It told the stories of the incredible adventures of Eddie Rickenbacker from childhood through his days as a fighter pilot and on through his involvement in the Indianapolis 500 and beyond. I was expecting at least something similar. I found something very different.

This biography is structured around themes more than a chronological history of Story Musgrave’s life so far. This structure is intended to emphasize the essence or nature of his being. Story Musgrave is a philosopher and a poet looking for beauty and spirituality in his life and his relationship with the Universe. The book is filled with passages from his personal journals that convey his personal philosophies and how they have helped shape him as a person. The poetic streak comes in very handy when his words describe what it’s like to be in space. I don’t think words can probably adequately describe what it is like to be in space, just like they are inadequate for truly painting a picture of many terrestrial experiences. I would like to think his words come close for those of us who will probably never orbit the Earth.

This biography is structured around themes more than a chronological history of Story Musgrave’s life so far. This structure is intended to emphasize the essence or nature of his being.

The book tells us about the many accomplishments of Story Musgrave. He had a stint in the Marine Corps before college. He has a half-dozen college degrees including a doctorate in medicine: not bad for someone who never graduated from high school. He has worked as a surgeon. He has eight thousand hours in a T-38 jet trainer. He has 660 parachute jumps to his credit. He has flown on six shuttle missions, including the first servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. He was heavily involved in the development of the shuttle EVA suits and protocols for how they would be used. These and many other adventures are outlined in the book.

This book is primarily about what shaped Story Musgrave into Story Musgrave. It includes information about the literary and artistic influences in his life. He was greatly influenced by the literature of Thoreau, Emerson, William Wordsworth, D.H Lawrence, and others. He spent his first ten years of life on a large farm in Linwood, Massachusetts with an abusive father as part of the all-too-common dysfunctional family. He has suffered through a number of family tragedies. He persevered to embrace life and accomplish more than most people ever will.

Story: The Way of Water is an interesting, well-written book that is definitely worth the read. It is different, so it may not be for everyone. But, if you have an interest in a wide variety of subjects and like to think about your place in the Universe, this book is for you.


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