I knew I was going to read this book as soon as I saw the cover. I love elephants! Frankly, they are my spirit animal. They’re strong, loyal, sweet and kind, but most importantly, they’re egalitarian. From the brief skim-read of the blurb, it’s quick to assume that Kephart had an encounter with elephants during her work with The Peace Corps in Africa, but that’s far from the truth.
Choosing an elephant to represent her life story was a bold decision, because apart from the brief mention of a relative’s ornaments, they play no real-life part in her story. The journey Kephart documents, however, shows us that she inherited their strength to fight, their wisdom to look further, and their compassion to hold their loved ones near. She never put her pain upon others, and fought long and hard for a diagnosis, let alone a cure.
Never before have I encountered such a visceral account of a woman’s struggle to fight. Aggressive battles of the mind and body fill the pages and tug deep on the heartstrings of the reader’s soul. Every twinge, jolt and stab is transferred from the pages and into the reader’s own body. I could feel her frustration with each and every visit to a doctor’s office, her disappointment when each investigation led to another dead-end, and her hope when each dead-end led to another opportunity.
The chapters during her more healthier years in The Peace Corps are very enjoyable. Being the same age as Kephart when she began her service, I automatically felt connected. Just announcing the dangers of living in Africa and the number of precautions she had to take, I could only imagine the daunting task she took upon herself.
Her first major health scare involved three large flesh-eating maggots living inside her skin, on her butt no-less. Having them forcibly removed without anaesthetic, in a whole different world of infections and dangers, had me wriggling in my chair. When the maggots were gone, she was given a ’simple’ precaution that involved hot-coal ironing all of her clothing. I don’t envy her. I
struggle to can barely bring myself to pick up an iron for a special occasion; I couldn’t imagine spending a whole day to hot-coal iron every sock, bra and pair of underwear just hoping to kill the eggs of another invader.
This book is written with a casual dialect that any reader or non-reader could pick up and enjoy, yet there is an intelligence behind Kephart’s words. What she weaves is relatable, yet, at the same time, from a whole different world than I’m sure 95% of readers are unaware of. I couldn’t imagine feeling so defenceless that I couldn’t do the things I loved. Not having the strength to feed oneself, hold a book or even stay awake is terrifying. For this reason, A Few Minor Adjustments is a true lesson of vigilance, offering hope and asking every reader to be grateful for every healthy, happy moment of their short lives.