I KNEW A WOMAN by Cortney Davis


The Experience of the Female Body
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A nurse practitioner’s exploration of women’s health and treatment through the prism of four composite characters who represent some of the many types she’s encountered in 25 years of practice.

Davis is fascinated by women’s health, and how the spirit inhabits the flesh. By creating four case studies, she is able to focus on four issues that are quite common and unique to female health: teen pregnancy, cervical cancer, drug-addiction, and child abuse. Despite the fact that the four women she uses as examples are fabrications, the author’s emotional response to her “patients” feels very honest. She does her best to be helpful to Lila, a pregnant 15-year-old who lives with a man 13 years her senior. Davis’s resources are nearly tapped out when dealing with Renée, a drug addict who is doing her best to kick the habit in order not to lose yet another child to foster care. A favorite patient’s unexpected cervical cancer affects Davis more than anticipated, and an attempt to help a patient face emotionally painful truths about her past leads the author to divulge her own bit of uncomfortable history. The author’s account is equal parts medical text and good storytelling; as their tales unfold, the patients’ bodies and maladies are at all times explicitly discussed, with specula and vaginas appearing on page after page. These are, after all, the stock in trade of a nurse practitioner at an OB-GYN clinic. And though her prose can veer towards the purple, Davis’s respect for women’s particular physical makeup allows the reader to be drawn into the viscera and mundanities of common afflictions. A particularly graphic description of a hysterectomy nicely illustrates the author’s mastery of her topic, as she transforms what might normally be an episode that would try the squeamish into an entirely absorbing account that insists on being read.

Informative, honest, engrossing.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-50418-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001