I’ve been a little behind on my reading due to my surgery in January and subsequent recovery, but as soon as I felt up to it, I read a couple of books you may be interested in. (NO SPOILERS AHEAD–No worries.)
First of all, a disclaimer is in order. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. I have read every book in her collection for adult readers and my only wish is that she would write faster.
That being said, the first book I read last month was:
This powerful new novel by Ms. Picoult may have come out last October, but even as I write, it is still prominent on the The New York Times® Best Sellers List.
And rightly so. It is the brilliant story of Ruth Jefferson, a highly educated, experienced labor and delivery nurse at a local, New England hospital–the kind of professional any patient would be lucky to find attending to any and all aspects of the birthing process and postpartum care for both mother and child.
Except not everyone would agree on that–for one simple reason.
Ruth is African-American and the newborn baby on her morning rounds belongs to a white supremacist and his even more unlikeable wife–both highly connected in the narrow-minded world of racism flourishing underground via the internet.
Ruth is the first medical professional to identify that the new baby in question has a problem with his heart. She’s also quickly put on notice through her supervisor that she is to have zero interaction with the newborn, his mother or his father.
Hospital administration rationalizes the bigotry of the parents is no different from, say, a couple who has specific religious preferences.
A Post-It placed in the baby’s file states that no African-American personnel are to treat said baby. This makes Ruth begin to question the choices she’s made in her life. Especially given that Ruth is the sole African-American nurse on the unit, in her neighborhood, and even at the private school she once attended on scholarship.
Ruth has always worked hard and blended into the white world while her sister has adopted a more militant stance against racism and the expectations of “white society.”
So when Ruth is left alone to watch the baby post-circumcision (there are no other nursing personnel available at the time) the baby goes into a cardiac arrest.
Ruth must make a decision. Should she act on her instincts and training as a nurse, or follow orders and make no move to touch the dying baby?
The baby dies and Ruth finds herself damned to hell on earth.
The story is alternately narrated by Ruth, the white supremacist father of the baby, and a white, female public defender–herself a young mother.
Between the three narrators and some colorful secondary characters (no pun intended–they’re just damn well written) the reader comes to understand the title of the novel, which is based on a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I loved the book enough to give my copy to my sister, and I hope she will pass it to her future in-law who, herself, has spent a lifetime as a labor and delivery nurse. It’s an excellent, engaging read.
This is the first book I’ve read in years where I absolutely had no idea what page I was on. I didn’t want it to end.
That being said, Jodi Picoult has pulled off another coup–she has written convincingly from the perspective of an African-American character in a contemporary America that is not always as color-blind as we would like to think. I highly recommend this read to anyone and everyone.
The second book I read last month was…
This is a debut novel by a young woman who has an English degree from Princeton and a medical degree from University of California. There is no doubt the author is accomplished–but then to add author to her CV–well, it just makes the rest of us feel like slackers.
Ms. Kells’ book is a new adult novel–one that sold me because of the blurb on the front cover by Jodi Picoult touting it as “A compelling coming-of-age love story…Trust me–dive in!” Of course I trust Jodi Picoult. (See above if further proof is needed.) And so I ponied up my money and thought this would be a great book to see me through my recovery from surgery.
The main character is Avery, a college sophomore on her university’s swim team in California. She has the kind of life college-bound girls dream about–a member of a nationally ranked college swim team and a dreamy boyfriend from Hawaii named Lee. What more could any girl want?
And then there’s that hot upper classman named Colin Shea on the swim team who could be the next Michael Phelps–he’s blue-collar Boston all the way–but after that first day of practice when he pulled her aside and could read straight through to the qualms in her heart, he completely unnerved her. Since then, she’d rather avoid him because her feelings for him are just too unsettling.
Avery comes from a family of privilege on the east coast, but she’s no princess. Avery’s father is a doctor and he has raised her (and her brothers) to be prepared for any and all emergency contingencies. From the dangers inherent to wilderness camping to accompanying her father on rounds in the ER, Avery has quite a few survival tricks up her sleeve.
And she’s going to need them. When the college sophomore is returning to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving break, the plane crashes in a freezing lake somewhere in the wilderness of the Colorado Rockies.
The only survivors? Avery and blue-collar Boston swimmer Colin Shea, along with three small boys–now orphans, who must try to survive in the subzero temperatures of winter in the wilderness. Especially rough, given that the plane is in water, and so everything that can be salvaged is wet and freezing.
And yes, while Colin is hot–no one is hot enough to warm the brutal elements the five of them must confront and endure if they are to survive.
The premise is engaging. The characters are interesting enough, although I tired of Avery’s constant reference to her father teaching her this crazy skill and that crazy skill as the plot unfolded. I guess there are people like Avery’s father out there–but it felt a little repetitive and far-reaching at times.
The prose is plain–if you’re looking for gorgeous, lush language or a strong voice, this isn’t the book to grab. Also, because the chapters alternate between the crash site where the five characters struggle against the forces of nature with the post-crash where Avery must confront the changes and challenges of life with PTSD–and where Colin, Lee, her family, swimming, and the surviving boys fit into it, there is not as much suspense as this reader craves.
Finally, the ending seems rushed and the epilogue wraps things up a bit too tidily without giving the reader the actual dramatization of the character’s path from the climax through the denouement.
Still, this book is a worthwhile read for young adults and new adults who not only want a story with adventure, but also an intriguing love triangle where both guys are delish.
Readers with a passion for swimming, medicine, the outdoors, survival, and/or relationships across class differences will not be disappointed. It’s a quick read–and even reluctant readers will be able to get on board and fasten their seatbelts to go along for this ride.
Yours from the stacks,
Hot Flash Suzi