This gripping memoir of learning medicine in the trenches is the story of becoming a doctor by immersion at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the country--and perhaps the most legendary.
"Writing about one's life can be a clarifying and therapeutic act, and it can also be a generous one, as is the case when these three eloquent women chronicle their daunting struggles to join male-dominated professions. Novelist and critic Birstein's flair for language and stories was evident at an early age in her hectic New York City household and at her well-connected rabbi father's celebrity-filled shul, the famed Actor's Temple. She had just finished college when her first novel was published and she was introduced to critic Alfred Kazin. Instantly smitten, he tells her, "I couldn't love you if you weren't a writer." They marry, have a daughter, socialize exhaustively with literary luminaries, and stay together for 30 eventful years, and now Birstein unveils her immense frustration over what was for her a debilitating, even abusive, relationship. Unsparing in her condemnation of the prevailing sexist attitudes of the times and Kazin's selfishness and brutality, she is also laceratingly funny in her vehement characterizations of family, friends, and foes. This vinegary portrait of a tumultuous childhood and troubled marriage and scathing critique of an enormously influential but cutthroat literary milieu is entertainingly illuminating and understandably vindictive. Crane chronicles the relentless adversity she faced in becoming a world-class oceanographer with a modest matter-of-factness that almost camouflages the high caliber of her achievements. During the 1970s, when Crane was struggling to accomplish her demanding and pioneering fieldwork on underwater volcanic activity--she was the first to postulate the existence of the now famous deep-sea hot springs--female scientists either weren't allowed on expeditions at all or only in pairs, and they were not only forbidden below deck but also lectured patronizingly on their apparel and behavior. Drawn to the "unexplored and the unexplained," poetic, and committed to doing meaningful and unprecedented scientific work, Crane, who has worked at such major oceanographic centers as Scripps, Woods Hole, and the Naval Research Lab, found more conducive and respectful working conditions on international projects, collaborations that brought her to the challenging and environmentally crucial region she has made her own, the frigid waters of the Arctic. Crane's experiences are diverse, dramatic, and important; her understanding of international affairs and environmental realities laudable and moving; and her triumphs over personal sorrows and illness impressive and inspiring. Ofri chose to complete her medical education amid the kinetic life-and-death drama of Bellevue, the oldest public hospital in the U.S. She now tells the profoundly affecting story of her many rites of passage on the journey from student to doctor, describing with openhanded humility and candor her most awkward and terrifying moments--skirmishes with an elderly patient who suddenly turns aggressively amorous and an unrelentingly belligerent IV drug abuser--as well as revelatory encounters with a nurse who comforts her when she becomes paralyzed with fear over the risk of contracting AIDS and an astonishingly courageous and gracious lung cancer patient. Ofri, whose literary passion inspired her to help found the Bellevue Literary Review, learns something essential about healing, compassion, and death, just "how complex the act of becoming a doctor really is," and what it means to be human from everyone she comes in contact with, from the loving family members of terminally ill patients to a cantankerous but caring doctor who ends up committing suicide. And she relates each transforming experience in prose so powerful in its lucidity and quest for truth that it arouses both tears and wonder. --Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"These essays, some previously published, about the author's 10 years as a medical student, intern and resident at the oldest public hospital in the U.S. resonate with insight, intelligence, humor and an extraordinary sensitivity to both the patients she treated in this inner-city facility and the staff she worked with. The cofounder and editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, the Bellevue Review, Ofri is now an attending physician at Bellevue and brings to this memoir a combination of medical information and some very expressive writing. The author acknowledges that when she arrived to work on the wards, she had no idea what her responsibilities were or how to perform typical student tasks like drawing blood. Along with the technical skills she absorbed working overtime in a stressful atmosphere, Ofri also learned to truly care for her cases. In "Finding the Person," she describes, for example, why she continued to speak to and maintain a bedside manner with a comatose woman in front of the dying woman's family. "Intensive Care" recounts the story of Dr. Sitkin, a difficult supervisor who both alienated and won the respect of his medical team, and eventually took his own life. The tragic loss of her close friend Josh, a 27-year-old, who died from a congenital heart condition ("The Burden of Knowledge"), caused her to doubt the foundation of medical training, that knowledge is power. The pieces in this powerful collection are tied together by the struggle of a clearly gifted physician to master the complexities of healing. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved