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

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OPEN HEART

A CARDIAC SURGEON’S STORIES OF LIFE AND DEATH ON THE OPERATING TABLE

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

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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

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