Not without some gore but required reading for medical students and hospital-show junkies but also for anyone curious to...

A first-rate memoir from a British heart surgeon.

Westaby, a consultant cardiac surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, credits his grandfather for teaching him how to paint—for “connecting his hand to his brain” when he was a child—but seeing his painful deterioration from heart failure inspired the author’s pursuit of heart surgery—that and a mid-1950s American TV show featuring heart operations. So it was that the dirt-poor boy from a steel town outside of London made it to Charing Cross Hospital Medical School and on to a distinguished career. Following brief biographical chapters and some helpful heart anatomy lessons, the text is a series of you-are-there accounts of Westaby working in operating rooms around the world. In spare prose, he describes what he and his surgical team do to close a congenital hole in an infant’s heart, repair a mitral valve, transplant a donor heart, or implant an artificial one in the form of a ventricular assist pump. Readers will not soon forget the author’s stories about a baby in dire need of surgery to remove a heart tumor or the gang member stabbed close to his heart. Despite the cool detachment espoused by specialists engaged in daily life-or-death battles, Westaby comes across as caring and compassionate. This also manifests in his inveighing against Britain’s National Health Service for not covering costly but lifesaving pumps. (Many of the pumps Westaby implanted were paid for by private charities.) The NHS also insists that heart surgeons’ success and failure rates be published, which, since heart surgery is inherently hazardous, Westaby sees as an excellent way to discourage future practitioners. Indeed, his own accounts do not always end happily. Now, following thousands of surgeries, the author’s hand is permanently disfigured, and he no longer operates. He continues as a consultant, recognized for developing new surgical techniques and advancing artificial heart technology.

Not without some gore but required reading for medical students and hospital-show junkies but also for anyone curious to learn about hearts and the heroic measures to save them.

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09483-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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