A nurse juggles jobs at two Mississippi hospitals, aging parents and a stressed marriage in McMillion’s novel.
Penny Pewitt is an experienced registered nurse who works at a small-town hospital and a metropolitan hospital. She’s struggling to both place her parents in nursing homes and appease her self-involved husband, Johnny, a history teacher and baseball coach. McMillion, a nurse herself, precisely details the demands and moral quandaries hospital nurses tackle daily. Penny works in both the critical care and the oncology units and carefully watches over her patients. The most absorbing moments in the book surround the relationships among the doctors, nurses and patients at both hospitals. Dr. Samuel Scales adds to the narrative’s drama as Penny navigates working closely with him. Tension builds as Dr. Scales’ questionable activities may earn him a murder charge. Subplots within Penny’s personal life—locating her great-grandparents’ home in Mississippi and sorting through her marital issues, which include incompatible work schedules and lack of communication—distract from the main plot. Penny and Johnny’s trip to Mississippi holds interest but also feels separate from the primary storyline. McMillion might have benefitted from simplifying the plot and placing Penny in only one hospital. The quirks and eccentricities of each patient are inventive and humorous, though the suspense embedded in Dr. Scales’ wrongdoings, including the possible murder of another doctor, falls flat. And stretches of unexceptional sidepieces, including dream sequences, thwart momentum. Where the work succeeds is in McMillion’s expert ability to offer a comprehensive picture of the nursing profession—poignant moments with patients, administrative bureaucracy, making life-and-death decisions and using humor to lift spirits.
An acceptable medical drama.