A cautionary tale about traditional medicine that’s heavy on advice but short on storytelling.

Jane Doe : Gutted


A former attorney discovers her current dementia is linked to past multiple surgeries and a lifetime of poor nutrition in Briones’ (Jane Doe Overdose, 2015, etc.) novella, part of a series steeped in science.

Doris Finley is an “everywoman” who experiences cognitive decline after losing her appendix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and gallbladder to a series of medical procedures. The surgeries, which began when Doris was just 4 years old, came fast and furious, and in most cases, doctors didn’t tell her about alternative treatments and neglected to provide proper follow-up care. She nonetheless proceeded through life, falling in and out of love, raising her children, and building a career. But as she aged, she continued to be dogged by poor health. As the novella opens, a confused Doris has just shoplifted from a gift store owned by retired nurse Grace Gallagher, who’s privy to many of the details of Doris’ medical history. An ensuing trip to the emergency room offers a ray of hope that Doris, now in her 60s, will finally receive the care she deserves. Briones doesn’t pull punches in this work. As a certified physician, she has the medical knowledge to make a convincing case that organ removal, poor post-surgical care, and a penchant for high-fat foods play a role in dementia. The story pinpoints cause and effect with precision; readers learn that Doris’ first operation, the removal of her appendix, likely reduced the amount of good bacteria in her gut—essential probiotics that could have helped her avoid a later health issue. The story posits that Doris’ hysterectomy, meanwhile, likely harmed her brain by depriving it of hormones that aid in mental acuity. The author is at her best when she sticks to problem-solving, and she offers intriguing medical insights—first through the character of Nurse Grace and later, through the eponymous Dr. Berta Briones, “a maverick in her field,” who appears in the final chapter. The story built around this central diagnosis, however, is easily forgettable and includes little character development. Readers interested in learning more about dementia could consult several nonfiction books that provide answers in a far less circuitous manner.

A cautionary tale about traditional medicine that’s heavy on advice but short on storytelling.

Pub Date: March 15, 2014


Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

Did you like this book?



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?