Showing 721 - 730 of 873 annotations tagged with the keyword "Empathy"

Vigil

Shapiro, Alan

Last Updated: Aug-15-2000
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Alan Shapiro, poet and professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, chronicles the life and death of his sister, Beth, who died of breast cancer at the age of 49. Beth lived the last four weeks of her life at a hospice in Texas--this memoir traces those weeks in particular and refracts them against decades of family dynamics, turmoil and triumph. The memoir is composed of 14 tersely named chapters ("The Death," "The Joke") followed by "Afterwords": six poems about Beth.

Alan is the youngest of 3 siblings; Beth was the oldest and David, an actor is the middle child. Despite, or perhaps because of their age difference, Beth and Alan were very close. It was he whom she asked to write her eulogy and it was he who stayed the entire 4 weeks of hospice, save for a brief trip home. From Alan's love and devotion grows an admiration for Beth's integrity in life and death.

Beth married an African-American man, fought for liberal causes, and suffered complete estrangement from her parents due to her choices. Her husband, Russ, must deal not only with the loss of his wife and their daughter's loss of her mother, but also with the prejudice of the Shapiro parents and the medical establishment. At one point Shapiro describes how, whenever he accompanied his sister and her husband to the doctor's office, Alan, not Russ, was treated as the spouse and decision-maker.

Shapiro vividly depicts the poignancy of parent-child relationships. Gabbi, the seven-year-old daughter who loves horses, gallops through the house with grace and abandon not possible at the hospice. Alan's anger at his father's actions and his forgiveness of his mother's accomplice role are also strongly demonstrated. A great strength of this book is the choice of detail: the mother completes a book of crossword puzzles during the vigil; the brother becomes infatuated with a particular joke he wants to memorize; nurses leave a solitary rose on the bed of the newly dead at the hospice.

Shapiro is keenly interested in being with his sister right at the moment of her death. He describes the end: "one long, deep, and profoundly eerie moan . . . That moan, I'm certain, marked the end of Beth, the end of life, though the body went on breathing for another minute or so, each breath a little fainter, weaker, the body's electricity guttering down, dissolving, till there was no breath at all." (pp. 111-2)

He also analyzes whether this was "a good death." There had been many gifts: Beth's recognition of her importance, her reconciliation with her father, and her acceptance of her mother's devotion. However, Shapiro also keeps the reader cognizant of Beth's suffering and the now motherless child, the spouseless husband and the myriad other ways that Beth's death marked a void.

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The Resurrection Machine

Gehrke, Steve

Last Updated: Aug-15-2000
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This interesting and meaningful book of poems is difficult to describe and to classify. The author has had three kidney transplants and so is knowledgeable about chronic illness and its impact. Though he does write about dialysis and transplantation, he also writes about many other kinds of illness, including the chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, autism, cancer, and mental illness.

"Three Doctors" describes the gathering of physicians each morning to check on their narrator/patient, regardless of who overhears their conversation. The "Non-verbal Autistic Man" traces the daily, lockstep gait of a human being who speaks only one phrase and who walks the same path over and over. Not all of the poems concern the failure of the body. There are also descriptive poems about the Midwest and about various well known personages. The constant reinvention of the individual, even in the face of difficulty and death, is a common theme of this collection.

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Summary:

American Beauty, a story about Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), his family, and his neighbors, is both comic and tragic. In addition to a loveless marriage, an unhappy teen-age daughter, and an unimaginative, routine job, Lester is worried about aging. Nothing has turned out as expected. From the outside, all seems ideal: the white-framed house, the well-tended red roses, and the white picket fence. As illustrated by meal time settings, a highly-charged cold war atmosphere prevails inside the house. Lester and his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening), a realtor, cannot stand each other and their daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), has no desire to be with either of them.

From the onset, Lester’s narrating voice tells us that he will be dead in a year. He has no illusions about the repressive nature of his life and decides, unilaterally, that abrupt changes are in order. His scripted family role is cast aside as he quits his job, lusts after his daughter’s sexy friend, Angela (Mena Suvari), and smokes an illegal substance with Ricky (Wes Bentley), a teen-ager who has moved in next door.

Uncharacteristic of his customary, go-along behavior, the new, rebellious Lester throws a plate of asparagus against the wall during dinner, drinks beer while lounging on the expensive off-limits couch, works as a cook and waiter at a local fast food restaurant, and begins a body building program so as to impress and seduce Angela. Meanwhile, Carolyn has an affair with a competing realtor and Jane falls in love with Ricky.

Two gay men, who are thoughtful and kind, live on one side of the Burnhams; on the other side, Ricky lives with another version of disturbed parents: an abused and deeply depressed mother and a retired, Marine father (Chris Cooper) who bullies his son, is expressively homophobic, and collects guns and Nazi era memorabilia.

The lives of these characters, many of them familiar to viewers, gain in intensity as various threads cross to produce an unresolvable knot.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth book in a planned series of seven (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Unlike previous books, this one opens with the murder of a Muggle, Frank Bryce, the elderly gardener for the Riddle estate--a home where Tom Riddle Sr. and his elderly parents had been found dead many years before. Voldemort, although still weak and requiring much assistance from his simpering servant Wormtail and his snake Nagini, is positioning himself for a return to full power.

Harry's distinctive scar is burning with pain as he awakes from a dream of the previous scene. This scar had hurt once before, in book one, when Voldemort was on Hogwarts property. Harry alerts his godfather via owl post and joins the Dursleys for breakfast. Breakfast is meager because Dudley, always obese and obnoxious, has now grown to outrageous proportions and is on the diet ordered by his school nurse. His mother, to make him feel better, puts everyone on the same diet. Harry is once again saved from the Dursleys by the Weasley family, although Dudley and his appetite are the objects of a prank by the Weasley twins.

Arthur Weasley (the father) who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office has secured top notch tickets for all to attend the World Quidditch Cup. This fantastic event is marred by the appearance of signs of support for Voldemort by his followers, the Death Eaters, and Arthur hurries home with his charges in tow via Portkey transit.

Harry, now fourteen, enters Hogwarts for his fourth year. This year is different for all of the students due to the resurrection of the Triwizard Tournament, a dangerous international competition for a selected champion from each of three schools, Durmstrang, Beauxbatons, and Hogwarts. Although underage, Harry is selected by the Goblet as an extra competitor from Hogwarts. Everyone is concerned for the competitors' safety (the famous Viktor Krum, the enticing Fleur Delacour, and the decent Cedric Diggory). In particular, Harry's life is in danger from suspected foul play.

Adolescent love, the nastiness of poison-pen reporter Rita Skeeter, the ever-vigilant nature of Mad-Eye Moody (an Auror who caught Death Eaters in the past and who now teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts), spells that cause loss of control, excruciating pain or death, enslavement of house-elves, money, and variable degrees of professionalism by members of the Ministry of Magic, such as Cornelius Fudge, Bartemius Crouch, officious Percy Weasley, and Ludo Bagman are some of the themes and subplots in the novel. The traumatic end to the competition and follow-up lead Harry to witness and participate in some horrific events. Dumbledore, however, refuses to allow Harry to bottle-up the experience--Dumbledore understands that talk, openness, support, and rest are the first steps towards healing.

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Souvenir

Phillips, Jayne Ann

Last Updated: Aug-04-2000
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Kate, a doctoral student, has chosen to move far away from the small town in which she grew up and in which her widowed mother (a school superintendent) and brother (an insurance man) still live. Kate's life is solitary, punctuated by unsatisfactory and transitory sexual relationships with men; she has headaches and wonders if "there were an agent in her body, a secret in her blood making ready to work against her" (p. 180).

While her mother disagrees with Kate's life choices, their long-distance relationship is sisterly, playful, and intimate. Kate sends her mother Valentine's Day cards, "a gesture of compensatory remembrance" since her father's death six years earlier (177). One year Kate forgets to send the card; soon after, her mother is suddenly hospitalized for tests that reveal a brain tumor.

Kate's brother insists that if she wants to come home, she must keep quiet about the likelihood of the tumor's malignance and the risk that the upcoming surgery will result in paralysis. He argues that their mother is terrified and that there is no point in making her more afraid. Kate objects to the concealment of the truth but complies unwillingly with her brother's request.

She gains permission to take her mother for a ten-minute walk outside, just time enough to take a ferris wheel ride. As their car reaches the top of the wheel, Kate is clearly upset. Her mother comforts her, saying, "I know all about it . . . I know what you haven't told me" (196).

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Children's Literature

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first in a planned series of seven books. Harry's wizard and witch parents, James and Lily, have just been killed by Voldemort, an evil wizard who was thwarted and severely weakened when he tried to kill one-year-old Harry. The murder attempt leaves Harry with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Harry is whisked off to live with his Muggle (non-magical) suburban middle-class aunt and uncle (Petunia and Vernon Dursley) and their bullying overweight son, Dudley.

Fast-forward nearly ten years and chapter two begins when Harry is almost eleven and suffering a Dickensian childhood, forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs at 4 Privet Drive, the home of the Dursleys. Harry has not been told of his heritage, and is unaware of his own fame in the wizard world. He is punished when any hint of the out-of-ordinary appears, such as when he communicates with a snake at the zoo.

The narrative then follows our bespectacled young protagonist as Hagrid, the huge groundskeeper of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, informs Harry that he is invited to attend the school, takes him shopping for the necessary school equipment such as cauldron and wand, and offers the first sign of affection that Harry can remember. Uncle Vernon rants and tries to prevent Harry from attending the school.

But when Vernon ridicules the name of Albus Dumbledore, the wise and beloved headmaster of Hogwarts, Hagrid hexes Dudley who sprouts a pig's tail, necessitating a visit to a private hospital. The train for Hogwarts leaves from London's King's Cross station, where Harry befriends the wizard Weasley family, who show him how to enter the magical Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.

Hogwarts has four houses, and the new first year students are placed into the appropriate house (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and the sinister Slytherin) by a Sorting hat. Harry's life takes a definite upturn as he finds he is a natural broomstick flyer and is chosen for the Gryffindor Quidditch team. This high flying game with three kinds of balls and seven players per team does lead to injuries. Madam Pomfrey is the school nurse and runs the hospital wing. She cures with special spells and the magic of rest.

The year at Hogwarts is filled with adventure, friendship, and danger. There are characters who seem to detest Harry, such as Potions teacher Severus Snape and a Slytherin first year, Draco Malfoy, mysterious characters such as Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Quirrell, as well as a colorful assortment of ghosts and magical creatures. Harry and his Gryffindor friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger enter a quest: to prevent the sorcerer's stone from falling into the hands of Voldemort and his allies. The stone offers eternal life and hence would be key to Voldemort's plans to return to power.

During part of the adventure, Harry finds the Mirror of Erised, and mourns the loss of his parents anew as he sees them in the reflection. As the astute headmaster Dumbledore teaches Harry, however, love is more powerful than evil and death may not be the worst outcome: "After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure." (p. 297)

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third of a planned series of seven books (see annotation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone for an introductory summary). Harry, forced to suffer another summer with the Dursleys, has just turned thirteen. When Uncle Vernon's sister arrives and proceeds to abuse Harry, he rebels, runs away with his heavy school trunk and is picked up by the Knight Bus, a wizard transportation vehicle. Meanwhile, the nine-member Weasley family, usually short of money, have won a wizard lottery and are using the money to visit the eldest son, Bill, in Egypt.

Sirius Black, whose motorcycle was featured in the first chapter of the first book, has escaped Azkaban and the prison guards known as Dementors. Sirius was imprisoned just after the death of Harry's parents when he was caught at the scene of another horrendous crime. Special precautions for Harry's safety are arranged by Dumbledore and the Ministry of Magic, led by Cornelius Fudge. When Harry meets a Dementor on the train to Hogwarts, he blacks out as he feels a rush of coldness, a complete lack of happiness or future, and relives his worst memories. Remus Lupin, the mysterious, gentle and periodically ill Defense of the Dark Arts Professor, provides the antidote: chocolate.

Thus begins Harry's third year at Hogwarts. Hermione signs up for an especially busy, seemingly impossible, schedule of classes. Ron's old pet rat, Scabbers, takes a turn for the worse, despite Ron's attention and care. The invisibility cloak again proves useful, as does a magical map. Hagrid, cleared of the cloud that had been hanging over him since his school days, is promoted to teacher: Care of Magical Creatures. However, an injury to Draco Malfoy by Buckbeak the hippogriff (a flying bird-horse) during the first class leads to another investigation.

Bizarre characters, such as the doom-predicting Divination teacher, Sibyll Trelawney, exciting Quidditch matches with a new broomstick for Harry, more run-ins with Snape, and a peek at Hogsmeade, an all magic village, round out the story. Ron, Hermione, and Harry's dangerous adventure leads to the exposure of Sirius Black, the truth of his connection to Harry's parents, and new discoveries for Harry about his father. Our heroes also discover who is the servant to Voldemort, the Dark Lord.

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Summary:

This is a scholarly book and the author, who is an exceptionally good writer, has gone to great lengths to search out original source material, much of which has not been examined by previous authors. Instead of retelling Elizabeth Blackwell's story she relates in some detail that of Sarah Adamson Dolley, another important pioneer woman physician who was the third woman medical graduate in America. She also was one of the eight founding members of the earliest society of women physicians in the United States.

The book also details the period in the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds which was referred to as "maternalist medicine," when women began to pursue their careers in public health. After being "sidelined" in the first half of this century, the numbers of women physicians began to slowly increase, greatly aided by the new women's movement and the equal opportunity era.

Dr. More does an excellent job of bringing together the history of women physicians with the history of medicine from 1850 until the present. Her descriptions of women physicians' lives and problems are evenly presented and make interesting reading. The evolution of medical education in general is also well described. Her conclusion is not unexpected--that the greatest obstacle facing women practitioners today is the need to accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing with their professional lives.

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Survival Rates

Clyde, Mary

Last Updated: Jul-06-2000
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

In the title story of this collection, "Survival Rates," a husband's thyroid cancer appears to be a greater threat to his marriage than it does to his health. The young girl who survives an accident in "Jumping" ends up a casualty anyway. In "Howard Johnson's House," a plastic surgeon repairs a nine year old girl's nose after it is severely damaged by a dog bite. Even before the injury, however, the child's nose was hideous. When the surgeon gives her a cosmetically perfect nose, the girl's mother is not merely disappointed but outraged. Two girls must adapt to life after colon surgery in "Krista Had a Treble Clef Rose."

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Taking the History

Watts, H. David

Last Updated: Jun-19-2000
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In the first poem, Starting the I.V. (see this database) the poet tells us that he will approach the secrets of the body without flinching, "I have learned not to hesitate here, / not to let fears of my own" get in the way. The instrument he uses is the poem. Through these poems he reveals some of the hidden truth of the healing relationship. "A transformation," he calls it, "as if through this intimacy / we have become part / of each other." ("Physical Exam")

Watts captures the pain and horror of illness in striking images. For example, the numbness felt by a person suffering from multiple sclerosis "felt like oatmeal / drying on the skin" and the disease itself was "this moth of his nightmare / . . . eating at the wool / of his nerve endings." ("ms") In another poem ("restrictive") a patient's tortured breath "creaks like a tight box / a ship in a storm." Among the most remarkable of these 35 poems are "The Body of My Brother," "July 16th," "Chronic Pain Syndrome," and the exquisite prose-poem, "The Girl in the Painting by Vermeer."

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