** Slow Dancing with a Stranger by Meryl Comer


Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s is the memoir of a journalist whose husband, a brilliant scientist, is stricken with Alzheimer’s at an early age. She struggles with finding proper care for him, eventually deciding to take care of him at home, with extreme sacrifices on her part. And her mother also falls victim to Alzheimer’s so she struggles with not one but two patients.

The main message of the book is that the infrastructure to care for Alzheimer patients is woefully inadequate. Interestingly, she seems to consider that their lives should be sustained as long and as aggressively as possible, even though she deplores the dramatic loss of dignity her husband is suffering, and comments that he would likely not want to keep living that way…

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* Surgeon General’s Warning by Mark Stobbe


Surgeon General’s Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation’s Doctor tells the history of the position of Surgeon General, and then takes the reader through portraits of each and every Surgeon General, from 1871 to today. While I found the (military) origins of the post fascinating, too many of the holders were, to be kind, too boring to know about, although some were certainly colorful, and a few just awful. The author’s contention is that the office has become so political as to be useless, and by the end of the book I was ready to agree with him.

 

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* The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors by Henry Petroski


The House with Sixteen Handmade Doors: A Tale of Architectural Choice and Craftsmanship tells the story of the author’s summer home, which was designed and built by hand by its first owner in a beautiful site overlooking the coast. As the new owners attempt repairs and upgrades, they uncover more details about the way the house was initially designed and constructed. While some of the stories are affecting, I just could not hold a book-length interest in a house that’s rather ordinary — and not ideally designed to boot, with its flat roof in an area of heavy snows. Perhaps a carpenter would appreciate the stories better.

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Filed under Non fiction

** The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis


In a story written like a play, The Betrayers highlights the unlikely meeting of an Israeli politician who was once denounced, unjustly, to the KGB and sent to the gulag for years with his long-ago betrayer, now a down-on-his-luck denizen of Yalta with a sulky wife and a shoddy house. While I could not quite embrace the improbable circumstances of the meeting, I enjoyed the matter-of-fact tone of the descriptions of the complicated moral choices each character makes, with no one quite as guilty or innocent as he or she may appear at first glance. It feels like a Greek drama, but on the Black Sea.

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Filed under New fiction

*** Suspicious Minds by Joel Gold and Ian Gold


Written by two brothers, a psychiatrist and a professor of philosophy and psychiatry, Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness argues that the devastating delusions suffered by schizophrenics are created by an over-functioning of our nervous system when detecting possible dangers. They make a strong case, along the way showing that populations who are under stress, from abused children, to large city dwellers, to racially oppressed groups, are much more prone to psychosis than others.

The book also reminds us of the great difficulty psychiatrists have in treating patients who have a tenuous link to reality and the necessity to follow a treatment, and shose illness they simply do not understand, not yet.

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Filed under Non fiction

* Season to Taste by Natalie Young


Two novels featuring dead bodies in a week… In Season to Taste it’s a husband that is dead rather than a father, but he was deliberately killed by his wife rather than died mysteriously, and she figures that eating him is safer than burying him out in the yard. So she does, concocting all kinds of clever recipes. It’s rather gruesome, even if told in a matter-of-fact manner, and it’s also quite boring after a (short) while. The idea is that the husband was a pain, but even after many meals I could not quite tell exactly what made him so very loathsome, and certainly not why a more conventional manner of breaking up with him would not have been preferable for everyone involved.

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Filed under New fiction

*** Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston

Written by a physician who, like the heroine, is a woman, Dirty Work features a young obstetrician on probation because one of her patient, for whom she was performing an abortion, is in a coma because of an error on her part. The story unfolds as she awaits the decision of  the hospital board that will decide whether her license will be revoked.

I thought the anguish of the heroine was beautifully rendered, and I also liked how her ruminations explored the difficulties of being an abortion provider in a profession that deifies saving lives. Warning: the surgery scenes are graphic.

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Filed under New fiction