Frank, insightful writing about neonatal medicine and being a parent.

SO MANY BABIES

MY LIFE BALANCING A BUSY MEDICAL CAREER & MOTHERHOOD

A neonatal intensive care physician describes the demands of her practice and the difficulties of achieving work-life balance in this debut memoir.

For 35 years, Landers took care of premature babies and sick newborns in her medical practice. She tells of growing up in South Carolina and moving to Texas, where she completed her medical training, married, and raised three children. The central focus of this memoir, however, is her daily challenge of providing critical patient care, in which she was regularly required to make life-or-death decisions, while also dealing with the requirements of motherhood. Along the way, Landers details some of her standout cases, altering the names of patients and their parents to protect their identities; she discusses the consequences of maternal heroin addiction, a birth of quintuplets, and her treatment of newborn with a depressed skull fracture. One of her toughest cases, she says, involved “a tiny African American baby born at 27 weeks’ gestation, weighing 480 grams (less than one pound).” After becoming a mother, Landers found that, despite her expertise as a neonatologist, she still had much to learn about living with babies. She candidly describes the ways that she felt that her working life came in conflict with her role as a mother; for example, she writes about the difficulty of breastfeeding and working full time, as well as the dangers of burnout. Landers also considers broader issues, including her views that women approach the medical profession differently than men do.

Landers’ approach to writing is concise and forthright. When describing caring for newly admitted babies on radiant warming beds, for instance, she notes, “This work environment tended to dry out your eyes or burn the top of your head….During long procedures, my contact lenses felt like potato chips, and I found myself drenched in sweat.” It’s a no-nonsense style that effectively highlights the physical and emotional strains of working in a NICU. That said, Landers tends to rely on medical jargon, and although she often provides explanations for lay readers, some passages may be obscure to the uninitiated: “Emily had an isolated intestinal perforation—not necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe bowel inflammatory condition.” The power of this memoir, however, lies in its honesty, as Landers is never afraid to address her own shortcomings. A horrifying incident when she lost patience and slapped her son’s legs repeatedly prompts a revealing discussion of the author’s childhood, in which her father was a “harsh disciplinarian,” and her own determination to avoid providing physical punishment as a parent. At the close of the memoir, the author offers a list of what she considers to be the key characteristics for a career in critical care: “Grit, overachieving, and self-discipline are powerful predictors of a successful practice.” Such observations will prove useful for both new and aspiring physicians, but the memoir as a whole will prove to be illuminating for anyone striving to be a caring and effective parent while pursuing a high-stress career.  

Frank, insightful writing about neonatal medicine and being a parent.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63-195450-4

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Morgan James Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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