Full disclosure: I don’t know how to talk about this book without spoiling something about it, but it will be a general spoiler, not specific at all and I think that knowing this thing going in may actually improve your enjoyment of it (it would’ve improved mine, anyway).
This is another recommendation from my grandmother, aka the elderly badkittyuno, and it was a major improvement over the last one. (If you’re assuming it’s a medical memoir like I did, nope. It’s a novel.) Dr. Heaton is a successful anesthesiologist who unexpectedly loses a pediatric patient during a simple surgery. A malpractice suit is filed and her life starts to (kind of) unravel.
The first quarter of the book was great. For a minute it was in the running for five stars. It came undone pretty fast and pretty thoroughly. First of all, and this is the mildly spoilery part, the first 4/5 of the book reads like a rumination on the identity of a doctor, malpractice drama, what it means to lose a patient, etc. Obviously, losing anyone, much less a child, would be devastating. But so is the amount of moping in this book: Dr. Heaton is completely and utterly destroyed by the loss and can’t even live her life at all. Having read an alarming number of medical memoirs, it seemed extremely overwrought. I feel like doctors have to have some ability to compartmentalize and not blame themselves so intensely for a death on their watch or they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs. But she spends a lot of the book just moping around, regretting her life choices, gazing at the rain, stalking the patient’s mother, not sleeping, taking sad baths, etc. (Almost the entire book.) Then out of the blue clear sky at the very end, it turns out that there was another explanation for what happened and it turns into the last 50 pages of a whodunit when (in my opinion, anyway) there was extremely little indication that the reader was supposed to be thinking in that direction at all. That was frustrating to me. End of semi-spoilers.
Another thing is that she winds up devastated over betrayals by colleagues that are barely described. Although I’m quite sure that would be extremely upsetting, I didn’t know anywhere near enough about these people or her relationships with them to care.
Also: a couple sub-plots that I was never even remotely invested in. One (her dad is upset with her over some long-ago falling-out, is losing his eyesight in another state and they have a distant relationship) seemed to exist only so that he could ultimately drop a piece of metaphorical wisdom that would make the whodunit part click for her, which would’ve been whatever if we hadn’t spent a substantial part of the book on that storyline.
And while we’re here…real anesthesiologists cannot possibly spend this much time musing about patient’s minds gently sliding into unconsciousness as they trust you to keep their bodies in the twilight suspension of anesthesia with their bodies laid bare and their ears like two halves of a heart and…
Damn. I was going to give this three stars but reading my own review I think I’m gonna go with two. This book was disappointing.