Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy by Fran Macilvey

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy by Fran Macilvey in exchange for an honest review. She also answered some questions for me.  The fact that Fran sent me a free copy of her book doesn’t influence my review but I do attempt to be fair. I think this is the third memoir of a person with CP I’ve had to review (but not the third one I’ve read if that makes sense) and I think of those three this is the one I enjoyed the most.  I think the fact that as of this writing Trapped has 20 reviews on Amazon and all but 1 give it 5 stars (I don’t give stars to books in my reviews on my blog) backs that up.

Here is the synopsis:

Image description: The book cover for Trapped.. It shows a young girl sat in profile inside a box which has a lid which she is reflected in. The top of the cover is a sea green and the bottom a sandy yellow.
Image description: The book cover for Trapped. It shows a young girl sat in profile inside a box that has a lid which she is reflected in reinforcing the idea she is trapped. The top of the cover is a sea green and the bottom a sandy yellow.

Living in the Belgian Congo with her husband in the 1960s, Fran’s mother became pregnant with a daughter. However, right after she gave birth in the hospital, she felt strange. Unbeknownst to anyone, another daughter was on the way, but before anybody responded, an hour had passed. Because of the delay, Fran was born with cerebral palsy. Growing up with her siblings in Africa, Fran always felt different. When everyone else was playing and having fun, she would watch and wish she could join in. After the family moved to Scotland and Fran grew older, her hurt turned into anger, self-hatred, and suicidal depression. Then one day, someone looked at her and saw a woman to love, and that was the start of her journey to self-acceptance. Fran has written the painful truth about her life to help readers understand how disabled adults really feel. In her revealing account, she shows just how hard it is to maintain the appearance of a “normal” life. More importantly, out of her million and one mistakes have come lessons in real acceptance, peace, and joy, which she would like to share with her readers.


As I eluded too yesterday when I posted my interview with Fran one of my friends saw Fran’s comment on my blog asking if I wanted to review her book. And after reading the sample on Amazon my friend (who has a young grandchild with CP) told me she’d found it upsetting and I shouldn’t read it because I’d get depressed by it.  Now, admittedly the idea of calling a book Trapped did jolt me a bit because it’s negative and on the whole my experiences of having CP are very positive.  So my first thought on hearing the title Trapped was it wasn’t what I’d choose.  But having spoken to Fran and read her book I can see why she chose it.  And I didn’t find the book depressing at all.  I can see why my friend found it upsetting because she’s a very emotional person and also because as a person with CP my lived experience is very different to that of someone just beginning to walk the CP life with a child they love who suddenly has this thing which makes them different.  That’s a topic I need to blog more on but it’s not one for tonight.  My friend has now commented that she wants to read this and I was thinking about that.  I think she’ll get a lot out of it but my first thought would be more that this is a book for people with CP and maybe for the families of older kids with CP say tweens or teens to get an idea of what life can be like. For newly diagnosed or those who’ve had their diagnosis for a while but who are still young I’d say read it but do so with an open mind and remember that CP is not just one condition and books like Trapped (and blogs like mine) aren’t there as a guidebook – this seems to be an issue in some CP groups with parents of young ‘uns in just lately.


I found a lot of similarities between Fran’s experiences and the way she describes thinking and feeling and my own whilst reading Trapped even though I think it’s fair to say the way in which we are affected by CP is very different and I am probably much more disabled than Fran reading between the lines.  That’s one of the best things I like about disability memoirs especially CP ones and why I wish I’d been younger than the 18 I was the first time I read one.  I grew up with several CPers my own age but knowledge from older ones and realising someone else has been there is always good.  Fran is roughly 15 years older than me and that made me realise how much attitudes to disability have changed not just in the years between when she was growing up and when I was growing up but also within my own lifetime. Which is a very good thing although I was a little shocked by some of what she experienced whilst very young.  On the whole I was left wondering just how much of the differences in our experiences were simply due to the progression of time and the disability rights movement and how much was down to simply different CP presentation/family/location/life in general.

Trapped is the perfect length and combines great writing with a level of honesty I wish I could share in my blogging.  It’s a good book and if I had a teen with a disability in my life it’s one I’d want them to read to start their introduction to crip culture and the idea of owning identity and your disability and being your own person. Highly recommended.

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