Valens is a former reporter and television producer who brings to this biography the camera’s eye for detail and accuracy. With Kinmont’s cooperation, he has written the story of nearly ten years of her life, a period that spanned the heights and depths of human existence. He relates the incredible transition in Kinmont’s life not only with a truthful tone but also with a tactful discretion that appeals to the younger reader. In describing her ordeal and triumph, the book contains a pointed lesson for readers on the uncertainties of life.
Kinmont’s story is written with a sympathetic heart but without unnecessary emotionalism. Valens’ approach emphasizes the ordinariness of his subject’s life as a teenager before the accident. Details of her waitress job at the ranch, her ski trips with friends to meets and competitions as well as for pleasure, and her brother’s teasing all underscore the fact that she was not an extraordinary person but a young girl who loved her life and the people in it. After the accident, the ordeal of adjusting to a nearly immobile life after being a champion skier, and of setting new goals for herself after being patronized by insensitive employers, changed her into an exceptional person whose life and achievements are worth noting.
Although the accident itself is the central focus of the book, Valens does not approach it with unusual drama. The events of that day are described factually; only the...
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Written in response to tremendous public interest in the story of Kinmont, this biography answers the questions that the public asked about her personal life and rehabilitation. Many people were anxious to know more about her life before the accident and to know what was behind the pictures in Life. As the project progressed, Valens found himself telling more than the story of a skiing accident. The book became a detailed odyssey through a young woman’s life, including her silly teenage times, her most demanding athletic accomplishments, and her grueling years of rehabilitation, requiring both physical and mental readjustments. In the course of this description, Valens presents an important lesson in life for young readers. Kinmont had a full life in January, 1955, including the potential for a future of athletic fame. A miscalculation in balance and the angle of her fall, however, changed her life. The importance of her story is that she took full advantage of her remaining physical abilities and of her mind in order to create a life of promise as a student and then as a teacher.
In the figure of Kinmont, Valens presents a role model who is important for both the disabled and the athletic in society. This is a story of common lives and extraordinary events. It serves as a reminder that life is a risk and that, when adventure turns to catastrophe, there is still an opportunity to create a worthwhile life. In telling this story without emotionalism, Valens presents the factual account of the transition of a young woman from triumph to tragedy and of her return to society as an important, contributing citizen. Kinmont’s achievements show that the human spirit is undeterred even in the most tragic of circumstances.