A sometimes-grisly but compulsively readable look behind the surgeon’s mask.

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LIFE ON THE THIN BLUE LINE

TALES OF THE NYPD EXECUTIVE CHIEF SURGEON

A former surgeon for the New York City Police Department recounts his life from his Long Beach, New York, childhood to 9/11.

“This is not your ordinary biography of a doctor,” says debut author Fried in his introduction, and, indeed, his life is an extraordinary one. Once a smart, chubby kid interested in photography and working for the family’s used-furniture store, he later became a mildly anti-social medical student and, finally, a fledgling surgeon. He took part in a program that whittled 40 interns down to eight chief residents over five years, which made sleep a stranger to him and his home life an afterthought. As a surgeon, he encountered death and dismemberment on a daily basis—at one point, the memoir blurs into a series of capsule case studies that aren’t for the squeamish. He also dealt with the monotony of checking new police recruits for hernias and hemorrhoids. Interspersed are tales of egomaniacal, money-obsessed colleagues; the sometimes-stodgy machinations of bureaucracies; a stint reviewing malpractice suits; a mysterious police detective known only as “Trenchcoat”; and the author’s struggle to balance a demanding, stressful career with the needs of a young family. It’s a tremendous amount of life to pack into a few hundred pages, but Fried’s writing is cleareyed and no-nonsense throughout, which is fitting for someone whose profession doesn’t allow do-overs. As a result, the author’s prose can appear somewhat detached at times—he sketches his youthful years without sentiment, and his younger brother merits little more than a paragraph—but Fried admits that years of surgical training taught him to keep his emotions under control. This ultimately helps the book, as it would likely be a grueling read, otherwise; when Fried does go into deeply personal experiences, such as his near-fatal struggle with hepatitis B or his frankly terrifying time at the World Trade Center site during 9/11, they’re more evocative because of the contrast. Elsewhere, the author’s bone-dry sense of humor helps put even horrific situations into perspective. Overall, he remains an optimistic presence in a life story that could have been a litany of tragedy.

A sometimes-grisly but compulsively readable look behind the surgeon’s mask.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4628-9

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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