The world of cosmetic surgery brims with outlandish patients and eccentric surgeons in this debut short story collection.
The unnamed narrator of the opening tale, “To the Dogs,” is a successful, wealthy plastic surgeon. But his fascination-turned-obsession with local vagrants prefaces a radical and unexpected change in the man’s life. In this insightful collection from Meronk, a retired oculoplastic surgeon, doctors typically find themselves in startling and/or comical predicaments, sometimes of their own volition. In “Amazon,” for example, Dr. Martin Olsen’s idea for advertising his business is to feed off an upcoming film about Amazon women. He believes the Amazons, who supposedly removed their right breasts to optimize archery skills, will inspire female patients to do the same, in defiance of gender norms. In other instances, a patient is the story’s catalyst. Helen Cogan of the eponymous tale wants Dr. Perry Troy to make her augmented breasts asymmetrical, which she considers aesthetically pleasing. But her husband disagrees and shows up at Troy’s office incensed and armed. Meronk’s denunciation of some aspects of cosmetic surgery is apparent; in “The Ten Year Old Head,” a doctor feels remorse over taking advantage of an insecure rich woman who was a habitual patient. But there’s no blanket condemnation of the industry, as the tales deftly center on all facets of the characters. “Smellers” is a refreshingly sweet love story that focuses on Dr. Jason Bittner and nurse Emma Carroll, who has hyperosmia—a heightened sense of smell. This ability has its benefits, like Emma’s telling Jason to skip the chicken salad (and avoid food poisoning), but may soon overburden their romance. Similarly, “Second Opinion” takes a farcical look at plastic surgery. In it, Arnold, a man “born with his head connected backwards,” wants a surgical modification. The intriguing tale pokes fun at not only doctors with drastically different plans for treatment, but also ludicrous acronyms (Arnold is an HBP: Head Backwards Person). Meronk employs terminology throughout that’s never extraneous or incoherent to novices.
Occasionally dour, often bizarre, and consistently profound medical tales.