Haddaway’s (Where the River Bends, 2002) touching exploration of the ethics of modern medicine and the impact of tragedy on a troubled marriage.
Ten-year-old Justin Moore falls hard to the ground after being hit by a foul ball at his baseball game. Despite Justin’s brief period of unconsciousness, his doctor, in consultation with Justin’s own mother, pediatrician Katherine Warren, decides his loose tooth requires more immediate medical attention than his head injury. While Justin’s father, Sam, waits at the dentist’s office, he senses that something is wrong. By the time he decides to find his son in the treatment area, Justin’s lips are blue. He has suffered an anaphylactic reaction to the Novocain, undetected by the dentist’s staff, who had left him unsupervised. For the next week, Katherine, Sam, Katherine’s grandmother and friends in the medical community hope for a miracle, even with mounting evidence that Justin will not recover. Katherine’s pain, in particular, is palpable, as she struggles with her own grief, tries to protect her husband and grandmother from sensing what she knows intellectually to be true, and occasionally gets drawn into Sam’s hopefulness. For support, Katherine primarily relies on her medical friends rather than her husband, and she continues to get pulled into the health crises of other children, all to the possible detriment of her marriage. Despite the distressing plotline, Haddaway avoids sentimentality, and the finale manages to imbue the reader with hope. The structure of the novel, with changes in point of view and occasional flashbacks that deepen the characters’ back stories, offers welcome breaks from an emotionally overwhelming topic. While some readers may appreciate the exploration of bioethics, the novel can also serve as escapist reading.
A poignant family drama set against the backdrop of medical advancements and their shortcomings.