Tag Archives: medical drama

Friend of the family

“I’m a lucky man, I know that…  My son, my wife, my job, my mother, my brother.   I have done enough damage to lose them all…”

First the positives.   A Friend of the Family, a novel by Lauren Grodstein, tells quite an intriguing story.   This is a tale about a doctor who, through a minor omission on his part, lets a patient of his die from an undiagnosed condition.   The pulling of this thread causes the fabric of his previously secure and comfortable life to come apart; the set up has parallels to Carol Cassella’s fine novel Oxygen.   In this case, the physician is a male in his early fifties and Grodstein does a quite commendable job of getting us to believe the man’s voice (sometimes not the case with female authors).

The plot line would have been fine for a medical-legal drama…   Dr. Pete Dizinoff has made a mistake that threatens a reputation it has taken him a lifetime to build.   His best friend, a medical specialist, is not only aware of Dr. Dizinoff’s error, he in fact urged him to order a test that might have saved the life of his young woman patient.   Will his friend protect him or turn on him?  

Unfortunately, the author fails to be content with this straight forward story line, so subplots are added – the main one being a possible romantic relationship between Dr. Dizinoff’s 20-year-old son and the troubled 30-year-old daughter of his best friend – and things get confusing and hard to follow.   There’s also a debate about the value of life in the suburbs.   Dr. Dizinoff thinks, “Evening in the garden of good and suburban…  Suburbs, man.   I don’t care what anybody says.   It’s the only way to live.”   Yes, the main character is quite satisfied with living in the suburban community of Round Hill.   Contra, the young woman who may be involved with his son says, “Isn’t the whole point of (living in) Round Hill that you can be gone for ten years and not miss a thing?”   But these issues are not the biggest problem with the narrative.  

The story told here would likely have been a fascinating one if it had been told in simple chronological order.   Instead, like an overly clever Hollywood film, the story starts in the present, with abrupt (even neck whiplashing) movements to events that happened three, four, thirty and even forty or so years in the past.   Each time a new chapter or sub-chapter begins the reader is forced to ask, “So where are we now?”

I’m not at all sure what’s the supposed appeal of this style of quick-cut and retro-scene storytelling.   I just know and believe that the story got lost in the complexity of its telling.  

I considered adding a few comments about what Grodstein’s characters tell us about life, but this time I’ll refrain from doing so.   There are some gems and rewards for the reader, to be sure.   This reader just hopes that the  clearly talented Laura Grodstein keeps it simpler the next time around. A friend 4

A Friend of the Family will be released by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill on Tuesday, November 11, 2009.   

Thank you to the publisher for providing the review copy.  

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A Book Giveaway: Beat the Reaper

We’re going to give away five (5) trade paperback copies of Beat the Reaper, a fun debut novel from author and M.D. Josh Bazell.   This is a debut thriller “so utterly original you won’t be able to guess what happens next.”   (Google Books)   Beat the Reaper is about Pietro Brnwa, a contract killer for the Mafia, who winds up entering the federal Witness Protection Program.   In order to keep him safe, the feds turn Pietro into Dr. Peter Brown, a reknowned surgeon.   Well, it turns out that mobster Eddy Squillante, who knows Pietro, is scheduled to have surgery for stomach cancer.  When “Dr. Peter Brown” comes to consult with Squillante prior to surgery, the jig may be up.   Or is it?

It seems that Squillante may be willing to bargain with “Dr. Brown,” and keep his identity safe if Pietro/Peter can keep Squillante on planet Earth.  This sounds like a real fun ride…   As per the New York Times, it’s a tale of a person who now “heals people instead of murdering them”!

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group for providing the giveaway copies.

Are you ready for the simple and easy contest rules?   To enter, you must be a resident of the United States or Canada with a valid street address; not a post office box.   Send your entries to josephsreviews@gmail.com by October 2, 2009.   To be entered once in this contest, send in your name and e-mail address; the latter will only be used to contact you if you are a winner.   To be entered a second time, tell me what identity you would assume if you were to enter the Witness Protection Program – doctor, lawyer, baker, candlestick maker, rock star, book reviewer?   Feel free to have fun and be creative!Beat the Reaper

All entries received by the end of the day on Friday, October 2nd will be placed in a very large and inexpensive plastic container and Munchy the cat will pick out the 5 winners.   The winners will be notified by e-mail on October 3, 2009.   Note:   The winners of our prior two book giveaways are not eligible for this contest; everyone else is.

That’s it.   Good luck and good reading!              

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