This is the second problematic medical memoir I’ve read in as many weeks.
Dr. Austin is an ER doctor, and his book is probably 70% standard stuff for these kinds of books – patient anecdotes and ruminations on the meaning of things. I’ve read…a lot of those books. The other 30% focuses on the impact of shift work and burnout on his family life.
The 70% I loved. It was reasonably well-written, and you’d have to go out of your way to make the subject matter uninteresting. The rest, well…
Where do I even begin? My husband is applying to medical school soon, and we already deal with a lot of the issues faced by medical families. He works full-time on top of the brutal pre-med schedule of grinding for perfect grades, intense classes, shadowing, volunteer work, and mandatory extracurriculars. I’m parenting solo almost always, he is either working or in school seven days a week, and we’re both chronically running low on self-care. It’s hard, like hard, but we manage. So the emphasis on family life was really, really of interest to me.
The problem? Dr. Austin is a giant asshole. He is verbally/borderline physically abusive to his wife and kids, even chasing them all out onto the porch, snatching his young son by the arms and snarling in his face that he’s going to hurt him. He kicks a door in rather than walk through a damp yard, and curses out his wife when his kids make noise and he’s trying to sleep. I’m not saying he doesn’t realize that’s uncool, but I’m not sure he realizes it enough. He blames it entirely on sleep deprivation, which I get is a really, really powerful thing, but it comes across to me as making excuses.
He eventually starts taking steps to rectify the sleep issue, which was entirely his own fault in the first place. He bought a house already completely aware that there was nowhere quiet for him to sleep during the day, only to turn around and terrorize his family for years as a result. (I don’t know how many years, because first he flips shit on his kids when they’re 7 and 9 and making noise while he sleeps, but then he’s building a garage to sleep in when they’re 3 and 5…I don’t know.) Eventually he builds himself an elaborate garage to essentially live in. Like a two story, completely decked out garage, while his family is not struggling financially but not well off either.
Oh, and his oldest kid has Down Syndrome and he casually mentions that he was offended when someone else said he should institutionalize her and “start over.” Because sure, he wanted to do just that, but his wife didn’t and it was too personal of a thing to say to someone. When his daughter is a teenager, he has an adult patient with Down Syndrome who he refers to as fat not fewer than three times in one page. In sort of a mean way.
I just can’t with this guy. His wife sounds like a saint. Maybe she should write a book.