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by Joe Connelly

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-40040-0
Publisher: Knopf

 Connelly's first novel presents two hellish, interminable, and presumably normal days and nights in the life of an EMS paramedic. For half his shift, Frank Pierce just drives an ambulance through the streets of Hell's Kitchen; for the other half, he sits in the back with the patients en route to Our Lady of Mercy (universally called ``Misery'') Hospital. Regardless, in Connelly's hands, every emergency call blossoms into a story. Mary Foster calls 911 fearing her husband Richard is dead, and then when he turns up in the next room, fears she's dying herself. Riot, nÇ Frederick Smith, is a dwarf whose pasty makeup only accentuates the effects of his heroin overdose. Noel is a psychotic whose signal symptom is a suicidally uncontrollable thirst. Mr. Oh, Misery's worst pest, is a drunk who calls 911 more often than most people call home. As Frank makes the rounds among these lost souls, he's haunted by his own hard-case father; by Rose, the asthmatic teenager whose life he couldn't save even though he'd intubated a hundred patients without a hitch before; and by Patrick Burke, a retired veteran whose determination to die was thwarted first by his family and then by Frank, who jerked him back to life through the kindness of CPR, epinephrine, and a calcium injection. As he cautiously circles Burke's daughter Mary, who's dogging the corridors of Mercy while waiting for her father to wake up and forgive her for wishing him dead, Frank sees that she's as damaged as he himself is. But how can their relationship come to anything when Frank can't break out of his cycle of horrific memories, and when all the normal cues for climax--from the loss of love and illusion to the parody of death and resurrection--are the stuff of his everyday rounds? Don't expect a strong sense of plot or direction from this zany, painfully sensitive debut--just think of it as a nightmare to endure along with Frank until you're released by the last page. (First printing of 50,000)