Gory surgeries, grisly autopsies, baffling ailments and the JFK assassination enliven these entertaining if sometimes icky medical memoirs.

McConnell is a professor of pathology who admits he dislikes doing autopsies, and as we read his slice-by-slice replays—“When I cut into her abdomen and an odious rush of feces spilled from the incision”—we can’t really blame him. His 50-year career landed him in plenty of scrapes outside of the morgue as well. A stint as an Army doc found him jumping out of airplanes, performing a circumcision on an uncooperative paratrooper and standing vigil over the casket of President Kennedy. (An assassination buff ever since, he offers tart commentary on the competence of the military pathologists who autopsied Kennedy and floats an intriguing alternative to the “magic bullet” theory.) There are vacations filled with impromptu consultations; on one Grand Canyon rafting expedition, he treats heat stroke, panic attacks and a bite to the butt by a rattlesnake. In a noir-ish vignette, he testifies in an abortion prosecution before a vaguely corrupt Mississippi courtroom. And there are many scenes of McConnell performing a doctor’s most basic task—struggling to figure out what’s ailing a patient, sometimes in the reflective quiet of the pathology lab, sometimes in the chaos of the emergency room. The author fills the book with absorbing medical procedural that presents medicine as an intellectual puzzle with its share of triumphant deduction and humiliating cluelessness. (One case, resolved only after umpteen lab tests and a home visit that reveals a tell-tale enema bottle, is a diagnostic mystery worthy of a House episode.) This is mainly a collection of vivid shaggy-dog stories, but there’s also an emotional resonance to McConnell’s reminiscences; as he wrestles with his patients’ suffering, he reveals that the physician’s anguish is also inherent in the art of healing. Engrossing in every sense.


Pub Date: July 28, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453845707

Page Count: 199

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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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...


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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