Linda C. Wisniewski
Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother, & her Polish Heritage
Linda C. Wisniewski lives with her husband and teen-aged son in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she is a substitute librarian, writes for a weekly newspaper and teaches memoir workshops.
Her memoirs, essays and articles have been published nationally, and she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Praise for Off Kilter
from Susan Tiberghien
author of One Year to a Writing Life, Footsteps: A European Album
& Looking for Gold: A Year in Jungian Analysis
& founder of theGeneva Writers Group
“Off Kilter opens a window into a woman’s life as she comes to peace with her Polish ancestry, her mother’s depressive behavior, and her own scoliosis, a side-to-side curvature of the spine, discovered when she was thirteen. Linda Wisniewski weaves the threads beautifully together, sometimes on a slant, as she leads the reader into the compelling story of a survivor. After a few pages, the reader is captured by the author’s voice―both heartfelt and perceptive, that of a friend―and by the narrative itself.
“Wisniewski’s memoir is a tapestry, each thread connecting back to memories of her Polish Catholic childhood in a postwar mill town in upstate New York―the two-story clapboard houses, the polka weddings, the house full of talking relatives, the best kielbasa from the Polish butcher―struggling to find herself in the midst of her father’s torments, her mother’s tears, and the discipline of the Sisters at school, their voices cold as ice.
“As the author writes her way through the remembered moments of her life, she finds herself no longer at loose ends with her childhood, but instead fitting the ends into the pattern of her life. Even her mother finds her place. When Linda sews, each sound, each touch becomes a thread to her mother. ‘The feel of the tissue paper pattern, the placement of the pins attaching it to the fabric just the way I watched her do it. The chop, chop of the scissors taking me back to the kitchen table that was her cutting board.’
“The broken yardstick from her mother’s sewing becomes the talisman of her life. ‘The yardstick resembles my life; it has broken parts. Nothing has been a straight line from here to there.’ Her back has been twisted by scoliosis. Her body and life have been off kilter. But the yardstick, mended and carefully glued back together, is now hers. It measures her struggle to stretch not only her spine but also her Self.
Bravo for this well-written, well-conceived memoir. The many different scenes of Wisniewski’s life are beautifully described―specific details that the reader sees, touches, and feels. And always with honesty and integrity.”
Praise from Mary Shafer
Wisconsin: The Way We Were & Devastation on the Delaware
“Unflinchingly honest, Off Kilter immediately feels like a rare, soul-baring chat with a treasured friend. Author Linda C. Wisniewski turns her clear-eyed gaze on the lessons of a lonely childhood stifled by the ask-no-questions authoritarianism of an insular immigrant culture. Yet it’s also a love letter to the beloved customs and sense of belonging that arise out of a sense of being ‘other.’
“…Off Kilter gives readers permission to take a compassionate look at their own inherited psychic wounds. No indulgent navel-gazing, the gentle rhythm of Wisniewski’s disciplined, well-crafted prose and incisive observations make Off Kilter a gift to anyone who has fought to create an authentic individual identity.
“Forgoing the easy temptation to simply blame, Wisniewski instead seeks the grace to understand, forgive and somehow connect with those who hurt her most. Ultimately, this book is testament to the triumph of determination over acquiescence, of love over fear. It touched me deeply and will remain in your heart long after you’ve turned the last page.”
Praise from Elise Browning Miller, M.A.
Iyengar Yoga teacher & author of
Yoga: Anytime, Anywhere
Yoga for Scoliosis (DVD)
‘Off Kilter’ is a perfect title for this book. All of us can relate! Linda Wisniewski is diagnosed with scoliosis, a lateral curve of the spine, at age fourteen, and is also troubled by her childhood with an abusive father and a depressed mother in a Polish Catholic community. Always trying to please, Linda finds herself contorted and off balance from childhood to adulthood. Off Kilter is an eye opener nto the life of a woman who learns to deal with the challenges of life and as an adult finds peace in honoring herself. Learning to live with her less than perfect body and childhood, yoga helps Linda find alignment, flexibility and strength to discover her own inner balance.”
More Praise for Off Kilter
“Writing in a style reminiscent of Frank McCourt, Wisniewski conjures the ghosts of a troubled and emotionally fraught childhood throughout the majority of her memoir so that she can exorcise them in the final chapters….Expertly balancing pathos and triumph, Wisniewksi never wallows in self-pity. Rather, she gathers strength from her setbacks and finds a renewed sense of purpose with each curve life sends her way. In this sense, Off Kilter is a fine testament to the resilience of the human spirit and to the healing power of the written word.”
Small Press Reviews
“Wisniewski comes to terms with her ‘off kilter’ life by revisiting in vivid images a childhood that insisted ‘suffering is good.’ Readers with very different histories will recognize their own struggles against forces that threaten to criipple them, and will be heartened by Wisniewski’s journey to understand and forgive, to heal and make peace, and to create and live a new life.”
author of the memoirs Back Talk: Teaching Lost Selves to Speak
& Awestruck: A Skeptic’s Pilgrimage
“This splendid first memoir is about the difficult business of finding balance in our lives. Funny, honest, deeply moving, Off Kilter reminds us just how hard it is to adjust tothe physical pain, the emotional loss, and even the surprising beauty of being fully who we are. Kudos to Linda Wisniewski!”
Susan Wittig Albert
author of Spanish Dagger & Bleeding Hearts
“Many memorists are asked by family members, ‘Why are you bringin’ this up now?’ In Off Kilter, Linda Wisniewski succeeds in answering this question. Exploring her Polish Catholic heritage in upstate New York with an emotionally distant mother and constantly feeling off balance from the shape of her spine, Wisniewski stretches herself emotionally and spiritually as an adult to find solid ground to stand on. A courageous insightful book, particularly relevant for anyone who grew up feeling physically ‘different.'”
author of Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory
“After darkness comes light, and in Off Kilter Linda Wisniewski takes us on her personal journey to overcome her challenging past to emerge a balanced, compassionate woman.”
author of A Year and a Day & Pears on a Willow Tree
“Off Kilter is one woman’s testimony to the effects of childhood abuse, which left her ‘off kilter’ in more than one way. Her spine was not straight but her heart and mind were always on a sight-line to what is right, what is good, and what is redeeming in the human heart. Linda writes with candor and honesty about her healing journey to forgiveness and wholeness, and the blessings of a life that is heart-centered. Everyone should read this lovely book!“
Linda Joy Myers
Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story
& Don’t Call Me Mother