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

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Jane Doe : Gutted

A DEMENTIA STORY

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

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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