IN THE MATTER OF BILLY K. by David A. Tate

IN THE MATTER OF BILLY K.

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 It could be that Tate, the author of Health, Hope, and Healing (1989), has had a change of heart since writing that nonfiction chronicle of his own return from cancer using such approaches as psychic healing and Silva Mind Control. In this debut novel, he tells the fact-based story of how a New Hampshire doctor and lawyer fight to see that a nine-year-old boy with Hodgkin's disease gets the kind of conventional medical treatment he needs. When Billy Kiely's diagnosed, his doctor, Rachel Freedman, advises radiation, which will give him a 95% chance of living to see the ripe old age of ten. So what stands in the way? His parents, a pair of charismatic Catholics who decide to trust in God and holistic medicine for a cure. Rachel's keen to take the case to court, so she taps her old friend Peter Heines, a lawyer who's been suffering through Hodgkin's himself for the past five years. He's close to being cured, though he doesn't believe it and has been repressing his feelings all along--which is why he's at first angry when Rachel gets him appointed the boy's law guardian. But when Peter's wife, Nancy, leaves him because he's so emotionally blocked (giving him the chance to make a few romantic overtures to Rachel), he does a turnabout and takes up the battle for Billy with all his might. The parental neglect case goes before the state supreme court, with Peter hustling in some solid-gold witnesses--including himself--in the eleventh hour. So what is the outcome? Weirdly, Tate's decided to have it both ways, ending with a ruling in favor of the parents and the boy's eventual death; but in his epilogue, Tate reverses himself- -a dodge that ultimately lands as a cheap shot. To make matters worse, his characters don't get developed in credible ways. Maybe credible enough for a TV docudrama, but not for compelling fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-87131-651-X
Page count: 225pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1991