Oxygen By Carol Cassella – Stephen Gallup Reviews

An interesting WSJ article by a surgeon (on how doctors are haunted by ghosts of procedures that didn’t go well) reminded me that I had not yet written a review of this excellent novel.

First of all, because of my background I’m a sucker for both nonfiction and fiction on the subject of medicine. I recently wrote a blog post speculating that, since I once aspired to a career in that profession, I may at times have viewed physicians as more perfect versions of myself. So I lap it up when Marie Heaton, the main character here (an anesthesiologist in a story written by an anesthesiologist), mentions, for example, that she cannot look at someone without automatically gauging how difficult it would be to intubate that person.

Also, because the story hinges on what happens to a disabled child undergoing surgery–including that child’s prior history of medical neglect–I was doubly invested (having raised a disabled child).

But aside from the book’s specific appeal to me, it should make good reading for anyone. The writing is exceptionally good. The dialog is perfect. (We can expect the author to have an ear for the banter among OR staff, but she gets other kinds of dialog just right as well.) This qualifies as a mystery. What went wrong with that surgery? I had a theory from the outset, but subsequent developments made it appear unlikely. The more probable explanation preys upon Dr. Heaton’s every waking thought until she becomes almost incapable of functioning. But then it so happened that I wasn’t entirely wrong, either. So I ended up feeling pretty smart.

Another thing I liked was the treatment of Dr. Heaton’s aging father. At first, when at a distance of a couple thousand miles, the old guy sounds like a difficult and unrewarding burden. When we get to know him, however, his insight provides an enormous benefit to his daughter.

Perhaps the way things are tied up is a little tidier than actual life, but it works for me. Kudos to Carol Cassella. She has written other novels, and based on this I want to read them.

Stephen Gallup is the author of a memoir, What About the Boy: A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son. He has an eclectic interest in books and authors, and reviews books as part of his passion for the written word. He blogs at fatherspledge.com.





Thanks for another insightful review, Stephen.

That’s it for now, and thanks for listening.

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