In a continuing effort to clear out my backlog of reviews, I’m writing another set of three mini-reviews.
Complications by Atul Gawande
Publisher: Picador, 2002
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Where I Got It: Paperback Swap
My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Overview: The subtitle of the book pretty much says it all: “A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science.”
My Thoughts: First things first, I wouldn’t recommend reading this book if you or a loved one are scheduled for surgery as Gawande is utterly forthright about the fallibility of physicians (and surgeons in particular). As much as we like to believe that our doctors know what they are doing, Gawande reveals that, all too often, medicine is a combination of luck, guesswork, timing and instinct. After all, physicians are human and prone to the same weaknesses as the rest of us: pride, arrogance, fatigue and distraction. But Gawande doesn’t just focus on the “hidden” side of surgery, he also explores how much of medicine is just plain mysterious—that some conditions just don’t “follow the rules” or behave as expected. This was a fascinating and gripping read, and I highly recommend it. However, as I said at the start, it may not be the best choice if you’re about to undergo surgery. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Gawande also wrote Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, which I fully intend to read.
Strangers at the Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes
Publisher: Scribner, 2010
Where I Got It: Downloaded it for my Kindle
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Brief Description: If you’re in the mood for a suspenseful family drama set during Thanksgiving, look no further! This novel manages to work in class warfare, single mother interracial adoption, simmering resentment, a marriage in freefall and multiple viewpoints. This story of the Olson family’s Thanksgiving will make your family’s feast seem like a smooth-sailing joy.
My Thoughts: I’d heard so many rave reviews about this book that I just had to read it. Although I wasn’t quite as taken with it as some others (which could be due to the fact that I wasn’t in a good mental place when I read it as it was the first book I read after my mom died), I thought Vanderbes did a good job of showing a family in the midst of a complete and utter breakdown while also working in issues related to the gap between the haves and the have nots.
Backseat Saints written and narrated by Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher: Hachette Audio, 2010
Listening Time: 12 hours and 43 minutes
Where I Got It: I downloaded it from Audible
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Brief Description: Ro Grandee is the sweet-looking, dutiful wife of Tom Grandee, living in Amarillo, Texas in a tiny house the color of toothpaste. If you met her, you might think it odd that Ro wears long sleeves in summer. But how else can a wife hide the bruises that her husband’s been giving her? So when Ro is told by a gypsy that she must choose between her life or Tom’s life, her long-buried “true” self (Rose Mae Lolley) surfaces and attempts to shoot Tom dead. But things don’t quite go as planned, and Rose Mae realizes she needs to find another way out.
My Thoughts: This is a book that I think I liked more because I listened to it on audio. Much of the appeal for me was listening to Joshilyn Jackson’s narration. She has this cute Southern voice that just made the book come alive for me. The way she phrased things and her inflections at particular times was very entertaining, and certain details (like the toothpaste color of the house) stuck with me in a way I don’t think they would have had I physically read the book. However, upon assessing the book with a little bit of distance, I do think it is a bit unbelievable in terms of the plot. I’m willing to overlook that, though, because I enjoyed the narration so much. I do plan on listening to Gods Of Alabama, the precursor to this book, as it apparently answers the question of what happened to Jim Beverly.
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