Showing 71 - 80 of 1206 Fiction annotations

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

Crutcher, Chris

Last Updated: Sep-05-2012
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Eric Calhoune is known to his classmates as "Moby" because of the extra weight he has carried since grade school.  Though his mother is young and athletic, he has inherited the body type of the father he's never known.  Now, in high school, the fat is turning to muscle under the discipline of hard swim team workouts.  But that transformation has been slow in coming, since for some time Eric has taken on a private commitment to "stay fat for Sarah Byrnes."  Sarah, whose name is a painful pun, was severely burned as a small child not, as we are given to believe early on, because of an accident, but because of a cruel and crazy father who stuck her face and hands into a woodstove in a moment of rage.  She has lived with him and his threats for some time; that and her disfiguring scars have made her tough, smart, and self-protective.  Eric and she became friends as social outcasts.  Well-matched intellectually and in their subversive wit, they write an underground newspaper together.  Sarah, however, lands suddenly in the hospital, speaking to no one, making eye contact with no one.  Eric faithfully visits her and, per nurses' instructions, keeps up a running one-sided conversation as if she could hear him.  As it turns out, she can.  She is faking catatonia because the hospital is a safe place, and she has chosen this as an escape route from her father.  Eric and a sympathetic coach/teacher go to great lengths to find Sarah's mother-who, it turns out, can't bring herself to be involved in her daughter's life because of her own overwhelming shame.  Ultimately the father is apprehended, and Sarah, nearly eighteen, is taken into the coach's home and adopted for what remains of the childhood she bypassed long before.  In the course of this main plot, other kids enter the story and in various ways come to terms with serious issues in their own lives, some of which are aired in a "Contemporary American Thought" course where no controversy is taboo.

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The Dark Light

Newth, Mette

Last Updated: Aug-30-2012
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Tora lived happily on a mountain farm in Norway until her beloved mother's death  and her own subsequent diagnosis with leprosy, an illness common in early 19th-century Norway and one that drove her mother to suicide.  Upon diagnosis (at the age of 13) she is taken to the leprosarium in Bergen, from which very few emerge.  Most are left there by families whose fear of the disease leads them to abandon even much-loved children, parents, and spouses.  There, despite the misery of living among many who consider themselves the living dead, she finds a friend in Marthe, the chief cook and general caregiver, a woman of almost boundless kindness; and the "Benefactor," a pastor who is remarkably unafraid of the disease from which most flee, and who befriends Tora as she grows into an unpromising early adulthood.  Another unlikely friend is a noblewoman who has languished, embittered, behind a closed door with a trunk full of her old gowns and several cherished books, including the Bible, The Divine ComedyGulliver's Travels, and a popular Norwegian epic about the adventures of Niels Klim at the center of the earth.  She gradually softens toward Tora, who cares for her tenderly as the older woman teaches her to read.  Reading becomes not only Tora's consolation, but that of many of her fellow inmates.  Near the end of her own short, but surprisingly rich life, Tora's father shows up after years of neglect.  Forgiving him, almost against her will, she reaches a new level of acceptance of her own mysterious fate.  The book includes a short afterword about the actual leprosarium in which the story is situated and about Gerhard Armauer Hansen who in 1873 discovered the bacillus responsible for leprosy, the first bacterium proved to be the cause of a chronic human disease.

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The Sickness

Tyszka, Alberto

Last Updated: Aug-23-2012
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

It started with a faint. Javier Miranda, a generally healthy 69-year-old man living in Venezuela, attributes his episode of dizziness to the summer heat and humidity. His only child, Andres Miranda, is a physician whose intuition tells him something is seriously wrong with his father. The doctor obtains blood work and schedules a CT scan and MRI of the brain for Javier. The medical work-up reveals rapidly progressing lung cancer with metastases to the brain. Violating his credo of complete honesty with patients, Dr. Miranda lies to his father and reassures him instead. Dr. Miranda's mother died when he was just 10 years old. Now his father's remaining lifespan has dwindled to a couple of months. The doctor must find a way to break the bad news to his dad.

Meanwhile, Dr. Miranda receives multiple messages - phone calls, e-mails, and letters - from a difficult and persistent patient. Ernesto Duran suffers from dizzy spells and multiple other symptoms. It could be panic disorder or maybe Ernesto is a hypochondriac. Dr. Miranda instructs his office secretary, Karina, to deal with these communications and remind the patient that there is nothing more that can be done for him. When Ernesto admits he is stalking the doctor, Karina worries. Pretending to be Dr. Miranda, she begins corresponding with Ernesto via e-mail. Before long, Karina develops symptoms similar to Ernesto's and experiences empathy for him.

When his physician-son finally summons the courage to announce the terminal diagnosis, everything changes for Javier - his mood, personal relationships, and awareness of his body's metamorphosis. He perceives the smell of rot associated with his physical deterioration. Dr. Miranda's frame of mind also changes as he copes with his father's impending death. Javier's deathbed request is simply for his son to shatter the terrible silence by talking about the two of them.

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Eye Contact

McGovern, Cammie

Last Updated: Aug-23-2012
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Adam, nine and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, wanders into the woods outside his schoolyard with a new friend, Amelia, who is ten and diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder.  Worried parents and teachers wait until the police discover Amelia's body with a stab wound and retrieve Adam unharmed.  Adam, unable to communicate very directly with anyone, inadvertently provides key clues to solve the mystery, which involves an old friend of his mother's, confined to a wheelchair since an accident he suffered in elementary school.   In the course of recovering from the trauma the whole community is changed, and Adam finds a new friend who will very likely be able to cross bridges into his world and accompany him on his mysterious journey for a long time to come.

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House Rules

Picoult, Jodi

Last Updated: Aug-19-2012
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jacob, a teen with Asperger's syndrome, has long been obsessed with the details of crime scenes and crime detection.  He tends to show up when local crimes are reported, and is sometimes able to offer unnerving insights to forensic analysts.  He works closely with an empathetic, intuitive young woman tutor whose controlling boyfriend has more than once tried to taunt Jacob out of her life, but she and Jacob have a strong, healthy connection that ridicule can't touch.  When she is found murdered, Jacob becomes a suspect, partly because of his proximity to the crime, and partly because the symptoms of Asperger's-avoiding eye contact, twitching, and hesitant or repetitive speech-resemble guilty behavior.  Though he has valuable information to offer as to who actually committed the crime, the process of making himself heard by those disinclined to take him seriously and uninformed about his syndrome, takes time, during which the disrupted lives of those around Jacob, especially his mother, become stories in their own right.

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Nemesis

Roth, Philip

Last Updated: Aug-15-2012
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Bucky Cantor is a young, athletic, Jewish javelin thrower who is acting as a coach for young boys in the sweltering New Jersey summer of 1944. He is ineligible for war service because of his weak eyes.

His coaching efforts are much appreciated by the children and their parents because a polio outbreak is on the rise, and sports help take their minds off their fears of death and permanent illness. One by one, boys fall ill and disappear. Some die. But the games continue in Bucky’s own private campaign against the epidemic.

No one really knows how polio is contracted and spread.

Bucky falls in love with Marcia Steinberg who urges him to leave the city to avoid exposure to the germs. She works at a summer camp in the Poconos far from the city and uses her influence to have him invited to fill a sudden vacancy when the sports instructor is called up to military service. After agonizing over his decision, Bucky accepts the position—admitting that he is running away from fear as much as he is going to Marcia.  He is amazed that no one seems to blame him.

The camp life is idyllic, and he is reconciled to his choice.  But soon one of the boys at camp shows signs of the dreaded illness, and Bucky believes that he must have brought it with him. Then, Bucky himself falls ill and develops a permanent disability that ends his athletic career.

Marcia rushes to his bedside more than willing to continue as his lover and wife, but he sends her away believing that she should not be saddled with a disabled lover. He thinks he did the right thing.

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Silence

Wagner, Jan

Last Updated: Aug-13-2012
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 1974, a student befriends Pärssinen, the gardener of his apartment complex in the town of Turku, Finland. Pärssinen invites him to drink and watch pornographic movies from his extensive collection. One night when both are full of alcohol, the gardener stops a girl on a bicycle, rapes and strangles her, and tosses the body in a lake. The drunken student is a baffled witness. The body resurfaces several months later, but the case is never solved. Her name was Pia.

More than thirty years later, in 2007, another girl, Sinikka, goes missing. Her bicycle is found with traces of her blood right beside the memorial shrine to Pia at the place of her murder. The retired cop, Ketola, is convinced that solving this new crime will also solve the old one.

At the same time, far away in Helsinki, Timo Korvensuo and his wife are entertaining friends. He is a successful real estate agent with a lovely, kind wife and two children, a boy and a girl. News of the missing girl greatly disturbs Timo and he leaves home headed to Turku telling his family it is for business. The reader realizes that Timo must be the unnamed student who witnessed the first murder.  

In parallel with the police investigation, Timo’s abject wanderings in Turku seem to be centered on (re-)finding and perhaps outing the original killer. Police discover that Sinikka’s parents are consumed with guilt for the difficulties they have had with their adolescent daughter; they fear she has been snatched, perhaps killed, before they could patch things up.  The father is a suspect.

Timo finds Pärssinen again and learns that he is unaware of the copycat crime. The police also also visit Pärssinen as a person of interest, but nothing comes of it. Timo goes to Pia’s mother, still living in the same home, to express his sorrow for her loss.

SPOILER ALERT!  Primed by Ketola, Pia’s mother contacts the police. They raid Timo’s home in Helsinki and find child pornography on his computer. They know he cannot have committed the recent crime, but they are convinced that he killed Pia. As the noose tightens, Sinikka reappears alive and well from a hiding place in the forest. She staged the second crime as bait to lure the true killer in a plan she had cooked up for Ketola. Timo commits suicide and the police close both cases, but they are wrong.

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Annotated by:
Schilling, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Open Wound is a novel crafted from the extensive documents of an unsettling, little-known, yet remarkable episode in the history of medicine.

In the summer of 1822, Dr. William Beaumont was practicing medicine at a rugged military outpost on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, part of the Michigan territory.  His assignment as Assistant Surgeon, US Army represented about the best circumstances he could expect from his training as a medical apprentice without a university education.  In addition to soldiers and officers, Beaumont sometimes attended patients from the American Fur Company, whose warehouses shared the island's harbor.  On June 6, an accidentally discharged gunshot cratered the abdomen of an indentured, French-speaking Canadian trapper.  Fortunately for him, Beaumont served during the War of 1812 and knew how to care for devastating wounds.   With the surgeon's medical attention and willingness to house and feed the hapless trapper, Alexis St. Martin's body unexpectedly survived the assault.  But his wound didn't fully heal.  As a result, it left an opening in his flesh and ribs that allowed access to his damaged stomach.  Through the fistula, Beaumont dangled bits of food, collected "gastric liquor," and made unprecedented observations about the process of digestion.  

His clever and meticulously documented experiments, conducted on the captive St. Martin over several years, corrected prevailing assumptions about digestion.  Once thought to depend on grinding and putrification, normal digestion, Beaumont observed, was a healthy chemical process.  Any signs of putrification or fermentation indicated pathology.  In 1833 Beaumont published his thesis on the chemistry of digestion in Experiments and Observations of the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion.  Shortly before completing the book, he received a temporary leave from his military service to restart his research in Washington.  But to carry on his project, Beaumont had to persuade St. Martin-who entered and exited his physician-researcher's life several times before-to leave his growing family in Canada and once again become a research subject.  St. Martin does return, with pay, and briefly accepts his role.  But he also confronts Beaumont about whether the long confinement on Mackinac Island was more necessary for the patient's survival or the doctor's research agenda.  Or for the doctor's subsequently improved station in life. 

Although some of Beaumont's academically trained colleagues found fault with his methodologies, the farmer's son and frontier doctor did achieve a gratifying level of professional accomplishment and wealth.  To enjoy them, he had to set aside humiliations he experienced along the way, accept his lot after military service as an ordinary practitioner in St. Louis,  and weather an unforeseen turn near the end of life.    

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Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Doctor Hanray, a PhD physicist, is an old man, apparently ill with radiation sickness, who visits his ancestral home in the present, or near past (post WWII and post atomic bomb development and detonation). He has to obtain permission from the guards who have turned his small village into a "reservation" in order to visit his parents' graves. He is greeted with military brusqueness at first until they realize who he is and then treat him with honor as one of the developers of the atomic bomb, an honor that makes him "wince" (his word) internally whenever this fact is mentioned.

While looking around and trying to get his childhood bearings, despite the absence of landmarks with all the new building and destruction of the old, Dr. Hanray spots a young lad - age 14 - coming up the road. It is he as his younger self. The younger Dr. Hanray takes him home where he meets his mother and physician father. He wishes to convince his younger self not to go into science, as his father says is his wish, clearly in order to sway the future development of the atomic bomb. He is met with a cold reception - but civil - by his mother, father and younger self until Doxy, their dog, comes in and recognizes the identity of Dr. Hanray elder with the boy. Doxy's warmth turns the mood around but in the end Dr. Hanray is unsuccessful in dissuading the boy and he leaves only to wake up on the ground outside his deserted home.    

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Turn of Mind

LaPlante, Alice

Last Updated: Jun-19-2012
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Jennifer White, age 64, is read her rights in a Chicago police station. But how much does the retired orthopedist who specializes in hand surgery really understand? Dr. White has Alzheimer's dementia. Her score of 19 on a mini-mental state examination (MMSE) is consistent with a moderate degree of cognitive impairment. She is questioned about the death of a neighbor, 75-year-old Amanda O'Toole, who lives 3 houses away. Amanda happens to be Dr. White's best friend and the godmother of her daughter. Amanda died at home, the result of head trauma. Four fingers of her right hand were cleanly and expertly chopped off. It seems that Dr. White is genuinely incapable of recalling whether she committed a murder or not. The physician is not charged with the crime but remains a suspect.

Dr. White's memory and mind are no longer reliable. In her lucid moments, she jots down notes in a journal. She dubs the notebook her "Bible of consciousness" [5] and it assists her in filling in the blanks of her past life. Her husband James has died. She has approximately $2.5 million of financial assets. Her two adult children - Mark and Fiona - squabble.  Throughout the course of her disease, family secrets are revealed and intimate details are exposed. Relationships fray.

Despite a slew of prescription medications (galantamine, an antipsychotic, an antidepressant, and a benzodiazepine as needed), Dr. White's mental status and behavior deteriorate. Her confusion, wandering, forgetfulness, and episodes of agitation worsen. The story is structured in four sections, based on the residence of the protagonist: First is Dr. White's time in her own home aided by a live-in caregiver, Magdalena. Next is her stay in an assisted living facility. Then she briefly escapes from that place and has a 36 hour adventure of sorts. Finally, Dr. White is incarcerated in a state mental health facility.

Ultimately, the circumstances of Amanda's death are made known. And while Dr. White did not kill her best friend, the surgeon was present at the scene with a scalpel in her hand. Another character was there too.

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