True health stories-3 medical memoirs that share the HEART of health

I read lots of books for my own pleasure and to review for this blog. Although health/medicine can be a genre in itself, many different types of books and media can illustrate medical science.

Some are fiction including drama, comedy, and often science fiction. One I have reviewed here is

Say Goodbye for Now.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW- A Novel
SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Most however are non-fiction. One in this category that I reviewed relates medical history.

Pandemic by Sonia Shah
PANDEMIC BY SONIA SHAH

Pandemic

Medical writers often explain medical conditions, offer information on treatment options, give advice, and encourage healthy habits. One of these is

Mind Over Meds

MIND OVER MEDS- book cover
MIND OVER MEDS BY ANDREW WEIL, MD

But as helpful and interesting as these are, I think the best medical books are those about real people who face real health challenges that are often life changing or even life threatening. There is nothing like experiencing a serious illness or injury to make you an expert about it.

And when the person with the problem writes or tells the story, we don’t just learn about it, we feel the emotions it provokes also.

Share your story

I have reviewed several of these “medical memoirs” here and will likely continue to do so. In a way, we are all living our own health journeys and many of you could offer reflections on how you and your family deal with your unique medical challenges.

If you are willing to share the perspectives you have gained through a health issue or medical experience, contact me; I would love to read it, and maybe share it here with my other readers. Your remarks may remain anonymous if you prefer.

Explore these “medical memoirs” with me.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA

He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.

Follow this link to my review of

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith, Forgiveness and Peace

I received a free digital or paper copy of these books in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.

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explore the HEART of health with me

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

Please follow me on social media (links in the side bar). I look forward to sharing more information and inspiration to transform your health journey.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Labor Day, a book more interesting than the holiday

 

Labor Day

A novel by Joyce Maynard

Most of us don’t expect labor Day weekend to change our lives. As a holiday it doesn’t seem to have a purpose; it doesn’t celebrate or commemorate anything other than the end of summer. We use it as an excuse to take another day off from work and school.

When I saw and purchased the book in Barnes and Noble book store I didn’t recognize it as the book from which the movie Labor Day was made. I’m glad, because I probably would not have bought it.

I find that reading books after the movie or vice versa is seldom satisfying. Often characters and settings are changed so the storyline is confusing. And invariably the movie version leaves out much of the character development that a writer can express with words. I didn’t feel that way here.  But more about that later.

(There are multiple affiliate links in this post; their use supports this blog.)

Labor Day-  the characters -a woman, a man, a boy

Henry, who narrates the story, lives with his divorced mom in a small town. At 13, Henry seems more mature than he should need to be, while his mother Adele seems childish and naive for a grown woman. As the story unfolds, you begin to wonder  if Adele’s eccentric behavior is due to something more than immaturity.

Adele and Henry are in their small town store buying clothes for school when a man they don’t know approaches them asking for help. Frank seems nice enough and asking for help might not be a problem except for the fact that is is bleeding, and evasive about why.

He asks Adele to take him to her house and either due to fear or poor judgement, she says yes. Both she and Henry seem to realize that something dramatic is about to change in their lives, but what it is, they can only guess at this point.

LABOR DAY- a book review

Labor Day– the story

As the novel progresses, we learn several story lines.

The main story line, narrated by young Henry, tells what transpires between the three of them over this Labor Day weekend. Weaving throughout are the back stories of what brought them all to this point.

Henry has reached manhood by the end of the book, at which time we learn what happened to these characters years after this memorable Labor Day weekend.

If you want to believe, or already know, that the worst of situations can have a happy ending, the final chapter will please but not surprise you.

Joyce Maynard writes in closing remarks at the end of the book,

“Maybe it’s an impossibly romantic and idealistic story. No doubt ….it would be a very poor idea for a woman to bring home a strange man, as Adele does that Thursday before Labor Day. Perhaps this book should carry a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.”

Medical themes addressed in Labor Day are heavily weighted around sexuality so if you are uncomfortable with those this book/movie may not appeal to you.

These topics include

  • Puberty and Adolescent sexuality
  • Adult sexuality, both in and outside of marriage

Other health issues explored in the story include

  • Pregnancy and pregnancy loss
  • Emotional/mental dysfunction
  • Marital dysfunction and divorce
  • Childhood disability
  • Trauma and death

 

Following their encounter with Frank in the store, young Henry talks about his feelings as Adele drove them home-

“In the seat next to her, I studied my mother’s face, to see if her expression changed, when Frank said these things. I could feel my heart beating, and a tightness in my chest-not fear exactly, but something close, though oddly pleasurable. I had it when my father took Richard and the baby and me, and Marjorie, to Disney World, and we got into our seats on the Space Mountain ride.

Today is my lucky day, Frank said. Yours too, maybe.

I knew right then, things were about to change. We were headed into Space Mountain now, into a dark place where the ground might give way, , and you wouldn’t even be able to tell anymore where this car was taking you.

If this had occurred to my mother, she didn’t let on. She just held the wheel and stared straight ahead same as before, all the way home.”

 

Ms. Maynard explains that as fiction this novel’s unfolding was

“a rare occasion, where a writer imagines a world in which goodness and honorable behavior might be rewarded and love might carry the day.”

Labor Day , the movie adaptation by Jason Reitman

Labor Day as a movie starred Kate Winslet as Adele and Josh Brolin as Frank.

Once I started reading the book, I remembered the movie, and cannot imagine any other actress portraying Adele; Ms. Winslet  aptly illustrated Adele’s quiet strength as well as her fragility . Young Henry is solidly played by Gattlin Griffith while Tobey Maguire as the adult Henry narrates the story and then appears in the movie’s final scenes.

As I mentioned above, the movie sticks faithfully to the novel. The backstories are not developed as much as in the book which is typical with the time limitation of a movie adaptation.

See below for a spoiler alert if you’ve already read/seen the book/movie, or don’t care about learning the ending too soon.

 

 

Another unlikely romance

Labor Day  reminded me of another book I read and reviewed, about the relationship between a woman, a man, and a boy. I wish it had a movie version ; another book by the same author does, Pay It Forward. Here is my review of

Say Goodbye for Now. 

Thanks for joining me to “celebrate” Labor Day and consider an unconventional  look at life and love in Joyce Maynard’s novel and movie, Labor Day.

You may enjoy some of my other book reviews, find links here.

 

Dr. Aletha, exploring the HEART of books

an open book with pages folded to make a heart

photo from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A true life romance also from Joyce Maynard

Joyce Maynard wrote a memoir, THE BEST OF US, about her true life romance which didn’t end as happily as her fictional one did, but did change her life forever. Here is a brief review.

 

Ms. Maynard’s story initially sounded like a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers, followed by a complicated adoption attempt.

Finally we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we as the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As the author admits,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed.

You can read the prologue of THE BEST OF US .

Spoiler alert: the following section reveals a major plot of Labor Day

At the book’s end,  Joyce Maynard wrote a final piece, “Don’t Try This at Home-How I Came to Write This Novel”, in which she explains why she chose to make an escaped convicted murderer (Frank) a main character in her novel-

Because she herself once struck up a long distance friendship with a man in prison .

She admits,

“I resemble that impossibly romantic woman who drove a man home with her, feeling no fear for herself or her son-though the man had blood dripping down his leg-because she saw in him something of her own wounded self.”

Her convict story does “not have a happy ending” she says,

“it taught me…to trust less and steer clear of the kind of man whose wounds on the outside may be fewer than those within.”

Here’s her story about that encounter

YOUR FRIEND, ALWAYS

Sharing book reviews from Net Galley

Net Galley helps readers of influence discover and recommend new books to their audiences. If you are a librarian, bookseller, educator, reviewer, blogger or in the media, you can join for free.

I enjoy reading and sharing what I read with my blog followers, so joining Net Galley helps me accomplish both. I try to find books with a health/medical theme although occasionally I will pick something just for fun. But I find that almost any story portrays some  health related issues since it’s a universal concern.

SHARING HEALTH BOOK REVIEWS FROM NET GALEY

Here are two stories, both memoirs, but vastly different. One is a private personal story, the other a public  personal story.

The Best of Us

A Memoir

by Joyce Maynard

Ms. Maynard’s story opened with a  failed marriage/bad divorce saga with adult children torn between the two parents, persistent anger and bitterness, and attempts to ease the pain with a series of bad choices in lovers. Equally sad was her telling of a complicated  and ultimately failed adoption attempt.

Finally she and we can breath a sigh of relief when she meets a man and seems to have found true love at last. But that comes to an abrupt halt when he is diagnosed with cancer.

From then on she poignantly describes a life turned upside down as she enters new territory as a caregiver. As she relates how their lives changed, we the readers are changed also, learning to recognize what is truly important in life. As Ms. Maynard  writes,

“success, money, beauty, passion, adventure, possessions- have become immaterial. Breathing would be enough.”

Read this book if you want your assumptions about life and death to be challenged and changed. You may read an excerpt at this link

The Best of Us-Chapter 1

Tears of Salt

A Doctor’s Story

by Pietro Bartolo; Lidia Tilotta

Dr. Pietro Bartolo practices medicine on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea. Lampedusa, known for its friendly people, sunny skies, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters famous for fishing, seems an idyllic place to live, work, and visit.

But for the past 20 years, Dr.Bartolo has cared for not just residents and tourists, but for hundreds of refugees- people who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean from northern Africa, fleeing poverty and political unrest. The lucky ones land on shore injured and sick. The unlucky ones wash ashore dead, having died en route or drowning after falling from a capsized or wrecked boat, sometimes only a few feet from shore.

In this memoir, Dr. Bartolo shares the stories of many of these people, giving them the names and faces that we don’t see watching news stories about the refugee crisis. He also shares his own life story of growing up on the island, leaving for medical school, and returning to raise a family and to practice medicine.

Dr. Bartolo’s story was also told in the documentary film FIRE AT SEA

He never expected to become the front-line help for hundreds of desperate people. With no specific training on how to manage an avalanche of desperate, sick, and injured refugees, and with little resources, he manages to put together a system for triaging, evaluating, and treating these people, then sending them on for more advanced medical care or to immigration centers in Europe.

For the less fortunate, he serves as medical examiner, to determine the cause of death for those who do not make it to Lampedusa alive; sometimes taking body parts to extract DNA to identify them, so families can be notified. He states he has never grown comfortable to this aspect of his job.

As a physician myself, I marvel at Dr. Bartolo’s caring and commitment to people who will never be able to repay him for his sacrifice. He approaches his work as a mission of mercy, and treats every person with the utmost respect, no matter their circumstance. Some of the people he treats become almost like family; he has even tried to adopt a couple of orphaned children but cannot due to legalities.

Dr. Bartolo’s story reads like a conversation. I think you will like him, and admire him for his dedication and selfless service.  His life should encourage all of us to consider what we can each do to lessen someone else’s suffering.

Another book review from Net Galley is at this link-

COURAGE for the UNKNOWN SEASON- a review

I also review books for Tyndale Blog Network.  for whom I reviewed FIRE ROAD,   also on Net Galley. Here is the link to that review-

Love conquers fear-a memoir of hope

I received a free digital copy of these books (FIRE ROAD was a paper copy) in return for posting a frank review on my blog and/or social media.

Get books here

Check your local library or book stores for these books, or consider these affiliate links, through which purchases help support this blog.


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