Showing 221 - 225 of 225 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn

A Summer to Die

Lowry, Lois

Last Updated: Oct-31-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Meg tells the story of the summer of her fifteen-year-old sister’s death. One night Molly awakens covered with blood, Meg calls their parents, and Molly goes to the hospital where she remains for weeks, undergoing tests. It takes Meg a long time to let herself realize how bad it is, even after the magnitude of the illness is visible on Molly’s ravaged body.

Much of the medical detail in the hospital scenes makes clear how advanced the disease is, but Meg masks her growing fear with disgust, projecting her fear onto doctors she decides must be using Molly for experiments and exaggerating the seriousness of her condition. Unable to open herself to an empathy that would require both an unusual act of imagination and courage to face grief, Meg focuses on the bizarre visible effects of Molly’s illness and on her own altered daily life. Her oddly "selfish" perspective, understood as a self-protective strategy, makes complete sense.

In the midst of the slow progress of Molly’s leukemia, Meg develops friendships with an old man and a young couple expecting a baby. Both contacts help normalize her world, provide her with "reality checks" and give her a quality of attention her parents can’t manage at the time. After the baby is born, Meg gains a new perspective on the precarious miracle of life and finds the courage to go to the hospital to see Molly, now in the final stages of the disease. Meg and her parents are emotionally reunited in their loss, and in the final chapter Meg reflects on the paradox of healing that doesn’t cover over loss, but allows life to be good again in different terms.

View full annotation

Waiting for Johnny Miracle

Bach, Alice

Last Updated: Oct-30-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Written for young adults by a volunteer in a children's cancer ward, the novel features an adolescent twin girl whose bone cancer separates her definitively from the active life she knew, and from the twin with whom she has lived her whole life in deep empathy. In the hospital she goes through a predictable period of adjustment when restlessness, loneliness, rage, and homesickness dominate. Eventually, though these feelings do not disappear, they are modified by the discovery of new forms of companionship that arise among those who share her confinement, fear, and recognition that the terms of her life have irrevocably changed. The camaraderie she experiences in the hospital teaches her both a new kind of friendship and new ways of understanding family relationship. The ending may disappoint some readers; several patients arrange a sexual encounter for a friend down the hall so she won't die without having been through that passage.

View full annotation

Doc

Graber, Richard

Last Updated: Oct-30-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Brad, son and grandson of Boston doctors, resists acknowledging what is happening as his beloved grandfather succumbs to Alzheimer's disease. The family's resignation to the loss simply fuels his denial. His father, a senior physician, has to confront both his own father's dementia and his son's denial.

The rest of the family conspire from various points of view to make Brad accept what is happening to his grandfather and how the family system has to change in response. The old man, they point out, gets mean as well as disoriented. The father urges Brad not to divert his energies from "normal" adolescent occupations to trying to rescue his grandfather from an inevitable fate. Brad's response is to insist that his grandfather might get better, and to resent ever more deeply a family he sees as abandoning the old man.

In a final scene the old man is almost hit in an accident. Brad races to call his father, returning in time for his exhausted and confused grandfather to collapse against him on the sidewalk. Brad's father refuses to resuscitate him, recalling the old man's prohibition against extraordinary measures. In that moment of decision Brad comes to understand his father's predicament, his professional responsibilities, and the complexity of his relationship to the man he has known as grandfather. Letting his grandfather go, he also lets go of an adolescent resistance to his father's point of view, and crosses a threshold into adulthood that is both sobering and liberating.

View full annotation

Heirs of General Practice

McPhee, John

Last Updated: Oct-17-1996
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

Originally a three-part series in the New Yorker, this is an account of McPhee's six months of observing rural family doctors in Maine. It is both an engaging portrait of a kind of family practice increasingly rare in America, and implicitly an argument that those involved in professional medicine consider the tradeoffs in choosing between urban, high-tech, specialization and rural family practice where they know whole families in the context of community over time.

The narrative, based on interviews with physicians, some patients, and observations of clinical encounters, follows the daily routines and decision-making of several rural practitioners who consciously chose against the more lucrative, prestigious option of urban private practice, specialization, or academic medicine.

View full annotation

In the Land of the Body

Bloch, Chana

Last Updated: Nov-16-1995
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Summary:

Chana Bloch's series of eight cancer poems, collectively entitled “In the Land of the Body,” focuses on the experience of ovarian cancer, from diagnosis to surgery and beyond. The poems provide a loose narrative of illness and treatment, but each of them represents a slightly different approach to the inner life of illness. They are episodic; several evoke scenes--in the doctor's office before the X-ray machine, at home, watching her children color, in the hospital before surgery, and finally out of doors among the pines, released as “cured,” reveling in the qualified hope that they got it all.

View full annotation