Showing 61 - 70 of 143 annotations contributed by Miksanek, Tony
When an elderly woman dies, her husband telegraphs their six sons to come home. They are successful men between the ages of 20 and 40 who reside in different regions of Russia. The third son, a physicist, brings his 6-year-old daughter along. First, the brothers weep--slowly and silently. They experience a combination of apprehension and loneliness. Next, the siblings participate in a brief religious ceremony. As they surround their mother's coffin listening to the priest, the six men are uncomfortable and perhaps even ashamed. Finally, the brothers act cheerful--singing, telling stories, and roughhousing while preparing to go to sleep.
The third brother calms the others and then exits the bedroom. He stands over his mother's casket and passes out. His head hits the floor. His five brothers revive him and console him. Now all six men are able to fully mourn their deceased mother. They easily recall their childhood. The six brothers carry their mother's coffin and are followed by the father and granddaughter in the funeral procession. The old man is content that one day these same six sons will properly bury him too.
Richard Koslowski, a 32-year-old computer systems supervisor and musician, breaks a tooth when he bites an olive pit. Although the remnant of the damaged tooth is removed during his initial visit to the dentist, Koslowski embarks on a peculiar quest. He longs to find a perfect-fitting dental bridge, to eliminate a mysterious oral pain, and to measure up to the suffering his parents have endured as survivors of concentration camps.
He eventually elicits opinions or treatment from ten different dentists and specialists. Koslowski realizes that he has sustained more than just a cracked tooth. His entire life is now fractured. Koslowski becomes obsessed with his teeth. His girlfriend, Lisa, is a law student who is passionate about women's rights. She travels to Bosnia to interview and assist rape victims. When Lisa returns, she breaks up with Koslowski. His suffering seems so small and his life so insignificant that she can no longer tolerate him.
Koslowski's father is dying of a brain tumor but remains stoic until the end. Koslowski, on the other hand, has a poor pain tolerance. After undergoing multiple dental procedures--tooth extraction, root canals, a series of gum cleanings every week, and finally dental implants--Koslowski ultimately resigns himself to living with the discomfort in his mouth. His "reward" is marriage to a disabled woman, three children, and an ordinary life filled with minor ailments and nuisances.
After being struck by a speeding car while riding his bicycle, Paul Rayment suffers extensive damage to his right leg. An above-knee amputation is performed by a young surgeon, Dr. Hansen. Paul is a 60-year-old former photographer who lives in Australia. Divorced and childless, he has no one to assist him with the activities of daily living after he is discharged from the hospital. He refuses a prosthesis. Paul's accident and loss of a limb have triggered a reexamination of his life. He now regrets never having fathered a child. Paul's life is further complicated by three unusual women.
He hires a Croatian lady, Marijana Jokic, as his day nurse and aid. He is attracted to and dependent on the much younger Marijana. Although she is married and has three children, he lusts for her. He offers to act as a godfather for Marijana's children and provide funds for their education. Drago, Marijana's oldest child, lives with Paul for a while. Drago and his father build a customized cycle to convey Paul, but the crippled man doubts he will ever ride it.
Paul has a single sexual encounter with a woman blinded by a tumor. Her name is Marianna. He is blindfolded during the affair and pays her afterwards. A novelist with a weak heart, Elizabeth Costello, intrudes on Paul. The elderly woman is mysterious. She pesters him, occupies his apartment without an invitation, and peppers him with questions. In time, all three females fade from his world, leaving Paul still struggling to adapt to loss and a new life.
Filomena is the wife of the miller, Malaquias. She is miserable with labor pains and has been bedridden for three days. Her childbirth is failing to progress, and death seems likely for both mother and baby. A tiny hand protrudes from Filomena's vagina signifying the stalled process of birth and the urgent need for medical assistance. The midwife in this Portuguese village is not capable of performing such a difficult delivery. The local doctor is ill. He advises Malaquias to fetch a physician from another town but the cost is too great.
The Catholic priest, Father Gusmao, makes a nocturnal procession carrying the Holy Eucharist to the miller's home. He intends to administer Communion and Last Rights to Filomena. The priest examines her and discovers that Filomena's baby is in the breech position. He has little choice but to attempt delivering the baby by himself. Although Father Gusmao read a medical manual long ago, it is primarily intuition that steers his daring act. First a foot, then the body, and finally the head of a baby boy emerge from the birth canal. Mother and child survive. All the while, the Holy Eucharist in a pyx sits on top of a chest of clothes near Filomena's bed witnessing (or perhaps guiding) the entire sequence of events.
When their young son dies from kidney failure, Stewart and Sharon Mackaney funnel their grief into a business--transporting donated organs for transplant patients. Sharon has put on weight and not cut her long hair since the death of her child, Matthew. The fortyish woman likes to read about vertebrate organs in a worn copy of Gray's Anatomy. She totes a red cooler on her trips crisscrossing the country. Inside of it is a precious organ--a kidney, liver, or pancreas.
Sharon spends lots of time in airplanes, hotels, and bars. Although they continue to share a house, she and her husband have been estranged since Matthew's death three years earlier. Stew suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic flatulence that began at his son's funeral and has not improved a bit despite psychiatric treatment.
Stew and Sharon receive an award for their work as organ transporters. During a speech at the fundraising event, Sharon criticizes the audience for hoarding their kidneys. On returning home, she spends time in Matthew's bedroom and later has a variation of the recurrent nightmare that has plagued her since her son's death. Sharon dreams that her hair is gone, and she rises, unencumbered, until reaching the ozone layer where she is incinerated.
In 1918, the lives of ordinary Americans are disrupted by two cataclysmic events--an epidemic of influenza and World War I. Lydia Kilkenny is a young woman who works in a Boston department store. She falls in love with Henry Wickett, a sensitive and sickly man who is enrolled in medical school but has little enthusiasm for becoming a doctor. After marriage, Henry drops out of medical school. He tries to enlist in the army but is rejected.
Henry turns his attention to "Wickett’s Remedy"--a tonic accompanied by a handwritten letter emphasizing hope and encouraging recovery. Lydia designs the product’s label and concocts the placebo (based on ingredients revealed to her in a dream). The Remedy is an unsuccessful business venture for the couple.
A businessman named Quentin Driscoll likes the taste, however, and sells the Remedy as a beverage (QD soda). Although Driscoll promises to share future profits from the sale of the soda pop with Henry and Lydia, he fails to honor the agreement. QD soda eventually becomes quite popular, but Lydia never reaps any of the financial gain.
Influenza claims the lives of the two most important men in Lydia’s life--her brother, Michael, and her husband, Henry. She feels helpless and decides to volunteer at the local hospital where she cares for patients with the flu. Lydia realizes that she wants to become a nurse and signs up for a Public Health research project investigating how influenza is transmitted. Unfortunately, none of the test subjects (Navy deserters) contract the flu during the study, but a promising young doctor dies of influenza and pneumonia. Lydia later marries one of the men she meets during the research project.
Thirteen-year-old Charles has been sick with a fever for days. The family doctor makes house calls and diagnoses the problem as scarlet fever and a cold. The boy is unconvinced and questions the physician's certainty since no diagnostic tests have been done. Charles is terrified when first his hands and then his legs change. He senses that his extremities become swollen, warm, throbbing, and twitching. Although the limbs appear normal, Charles is sure that he no longer has control of them. Recalling how the wood of petrified trees transforms into stone, he now fears that his entire body has been irrevocably replaced by a propagating mass of microbes.
The doctor dismisses the boy's fright as the result of fever and imagination. He placates Charles by giving him pills. When Charles begins choking himself, his parents restrain him in bed. Fortunately, the teenager improves dramatically. His fever disappears, and he is suddenly robust. Yet there is something odd (and a bit creepy) about Charles following his recovery.
A screening chest X-ray reveals the presence of a cardiac myxoma in a 72-year-old dictator. His personal physician (fearing for his own life) timidly informs Mr. President about the tumor and the likelihood that it will claim the dictator's life in a matter of months. The physician lacks the training and ability to remove the tumor but recommends Dr. Gala Sampras as the surgeon most qualified to perform the procedure.
Slight problem: Sampras was one of 14 surgeons who "disappeared" in 1992 after criticizing the dictator and his regime. She was imprisoned and abused in a labor camp. Her husband and three children were also removed from society. A bargain is struck. Sampras will do the operation. After the surgery is done, she will be reunited with her family.
The dictator shows Sampras pictures of her family. Although the photos of her children appear to be recent, the picture of her husband seems to have been taken years ago. On the day of surgery, the dictator directs the doctor's attention to the courtyard where soldiers surround her daughter. Sampras realizes the dictator might not survive the operation given the complexity of the procedure and the patient's age. Before succumbing to his anesthesia-induced sleep, the dictator is told by Sampras not to worry, but her every move is closely monitored by his soldiers. The night is likely to be long and hard for the doctor and the dictator.
Gerald Wilcox is an otolaryngologist who lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in Montana in 1959. Dr. Wilcox has a weakness for women, alcohol, and, lately, morphine (with which he injects himself about once every six weeks). He enjoys writing in his journal almost every evening yet rarely reviews what he has previously written.
Although high on morphine, Dr. Wilcox repays a debt by making a house call late one night to treat a young boy with mastoiditis. On returning home, the doctor decides to bake a coffee cake for his wife at 5 o'clock in the morning while musing on what will happen to his journals after he dies.
A neurosurgeon looks forward to having a day off from work, but a promising Saturday brings only trouble. Henry Perowne is 48 years old and practices in London. Lately, he's concerned about the impending invasion of Iraq. Perowne's views on the situation have changed considerably after conversations with a patient who was tortured and imprisoned in Iraq for no apparent reason. A protest march against the looming war is held on Saturday.
On his way to play a game of squash that morning, Perowne is involved in a car accident on an otherwise deserted street. No one is injured and the two vehicles sustain only minor damage. The owner of the other car is a man in his twenties named Baxter. He is accompanied by two buddies. Perowne refuses Baxter's demand for cash to repair the car so Baxter punches the doctor. Perowne is moments away from a pummeling.
He notices that Baxter has a tremor and an inability to perform saccades. Perowne deduces that Baxter has Huntington's disease. The doctor capitalizes on the fortuitous diagnosis. He speculates that Baxter has kept the neurodegenerative disorder a secret from his sidekicks. When Perowne initiates a discussion about the illness, Baxter orders the cronies away so that he can speak privately to the doctor. The two men desert Baxter, and Perowne escapes in his car, hopeful he can still make the squash game.