The Queen of Hearts – Kimmery Martin (February 2018)
Okay. Let’s just get this one out there: I watched the first six or seven seasons of ER like I was eating candy (with abandon) and fulfilling a religious obligation (with intense purpose) at the same time. Although I have only a small idea what these things mean, I can bark “pulse ox” and “CBC” and “V-fib” and “stat” like it’s no one’s business. This is a language I share with my husband, also an ER fanatic from the mid- to late-90s era. No joke: he once passed a nursing practice test based on his knowledge of ER terminology alone.
The best scenes in The Queen of Hearts, in my opinion, were the ones that brought me into the heart of the trauma, with the life or death decisions in the hands of medical students and their harried instructors. Absolutely gripping. This was also a friendship drama—two female doctors with established careers coming to terms with an event from their med school pasts. I liked the past drama and the present drama… although I wasn’t sure I bought the book’s conclusion. (Zadie as a character is a much more forgiving person than Paula as a human, TBH.) I’d be curious to hear what you think!
The Partly Cloudy Patriot - Sarah Vowell (2003)
I like Sarah Vowell, and she was a natural choice for my #yearofnonfiction, having devoured her work on NPR and having loved Assassination Vacation and having a physical copy of Lafayette and the Somewhat United States on my bookshelf, courtesy of a friend who once had Sarah as a student. I know what you’re thinking: two degrees of separation from Sarah Vowell? Paula lives a charmed life.
I listened to the audiobook, which Vowell narrates, and which also contains musical introductions by They Might Be Giants, and features a variety of guest narrators (including people no one has never heard of, like Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert) in bit roles.
The Partly Cloudy Patriot is part-road trip, part-history lesson, part-social commentary, part-personal quirks of the author—I know. That’s a lot of parts. Here I should mention that I’m a bad reader of collections (essays, short stories, etc.) since one of two things inevitably happens: I end up not seeing the forest for the trees, or I realize halfway through that I can only identify with a single tree in the entire forest.
Some of the essays here seem only loosely connected thematically (“Tom Cruise Makes Me Nervous” and “Wonder Twins”), but overall there’s a thread of fascination with history and the (mythology of the) Founding Fathers that’s pretty interesting. “Canada Haunts Me”—about the differences between American and Canadian viewpoints of the world—had me laughing out loud. There was a fascinating essay on the 2000 presidential debates held at Concord High School, with an explanation of an Al Gore “Love Canal” misquote that was heard around the world. And as someone whose childhood was filled with stops at brown historical markers all along I-80, I could relate to her visit to the Underground Lunchroom at Carlsbad Caverns, the battle fields of Gettysburg, the Salem of witch trial fame, and, just to prove a point—North Dakota.
Gotta say… I’m liking all this non-fiction.
What are you reading?
Paula Treick DeBoard