Friday, March 17, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean: A Novel by Susan Meissner

A Bridge Across the Ocean: A Novel.  Susan Meissner. Penguin Publishing Group. March 2017. 384 pp. ISBN #: 9780451476005.

Brette has a gift she fears greatly.  She sees ghosts.  It’s a skill that passes randomly through generations and she worries she could pass it on to her own daughter.  She has learned that if she looks away, she doesn’t have to communicate with each appearance.  But she’s also been warned that there are evil spirits as well as benevolent ones, therefore she should avoid getting involved in any way because it might turn disastrous.  Easier said than done!  She winds up communicating with one, finding out about a 70 year-old tragedy on the Queen Mary and deciding to investigate.  This makes for a wild adventure where she also meets other women who have the same skill or curse, depending on one’s point of view.

Simone Deveraux sees her father and brother murdered during WWII and escapes only to suffer a grievous wrong.  She escapes anew and winds up free and falling in love with a very unlikely man. 

Annaliese Lange marries a brutal Nazi soldier. She however escapes to live with a childhood friend, Katrine.  They suffer a terrible wartime event and Annaliese escapes, taking the name of Katrine who had married an American soldier.  Annaliese wonders how much she will have to pay for the false act she has committed.

These three women are now on the Queen Mary, a ship used both for wartime troops and the brides of American soldiers traveling to America while their spouses are away fighting the war.  Their stories now converge as Brette leads the investigation of the mystery she promised to explore. 

WWII in the 1930s was a period time fraught with disaster and love affairs, mostly the former. It brought out all that is good and all that is ugly in millions of characters.  A Bridge Across the Ocean unites these three women who are decent at heart but have learned about the motives of those who in a flash of a moment act with and without any integrity. 

Sue Meissner writes a fine mystery full of adventure and dynamic characters.  The ghosts are sometimes benign, sometimes horrifyingly malicious!  Enjoy the read!  Nicely done, Ms. Meissner!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity by Ronald Epstein, M.D.

Attending: Medicine, Mindfulness and Humanity.  Ronald Epstein, M.D. Scribner. January 2017. 304 pp. ISBN #: 9781501121715.

What is medical practice like when a physician takes the time to tune into the patient, to find out what is going on in mind, body and spirit?  Does a different diagnosis emerge from such sensitivity?  Does the physician experience less stress in a system that is fraught with demands for quality performance at the least possible cost?  Is this type of change necessary when physicians are so trained to churn out diagnoses from lists of diagnostic symptoms and formulas for treatment?

Dr. Ronald Epstein attempts to answer these and other questions.  His central thesis is that doctors who practice mindfulness as part of their practice are less stressed, more effective and more human, like their patients. 

Dr. Epstein describes his experience as a third-year Harvard Medical School student as he watched a surgeon operating on one kidney totally ignore that the other kidney was turning purple and looking engorged with blood.  While that other kidney was within the surgeon’s field of vision, it had no primary concern or focus.  The field was narrow but the surgeon’s focus was narrower.  It may not seem like a big deal but it could have had fatal consequences. 

Perhaps you’ve heard a patient cite symptoms, feelings and questions in one long speech upon first entering a doctor’s office.  How does the doctor handle that barrage and how many items can the physician handle?  What can be ignored out of that list and should it be ignored?  Dr. Epstein handles this answer without condemning doctor or patient and instead focusing on techniques of mindfulness that mean a doctor is more sensitive to everything coming into his medical surround. 
Mindfulness is enhanced with compassion and a state of constant curiosity on the part of the physician.  Numerous medical anecdotes fill the pages as we learn about some of the components of mindfulness.  The stories keep it all interesting as there is a bit much of repetition – perhaps a necessary mode as some may be tempted to pass over these elements of “how” to learn mindfulness and practice the same with patients.

All in all, this is an interesting text for those who are teachers, students, practitioners, or administrators in medicine.  Certainly, Dr. Epstein presents a model of medicine that will fascinate both practitioners and patients.  Nicely done, Dr. Ronald Epstein!