A recent Nevermore meeting began with Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter was a pioneer in medicine, advocating the use of anesthesia in surgery, cleanliness in the operating room, and use of compassion when treating patients—unusual habits in the medical field of the nineteenth century. Dr. Mütter—who added an umlaut to his name simply because he could—also amassed an enormous collection of medical oddities, which later became Philadelphia’s “Mütter Museum.” Our reader said she was delighted by Aptowicz’s book, being full of interesting information and a detailed biography on one of the most outlandish (and innovative) doctors in recent history. She called Dr. Mütter’s Marvels a great book, recommending it highly to her fellow readers.
The next book discussed was American Nomads: Travels with Lost Conquistadors, Mountain Men, Cowboys, Indians, Hoboes, Truckers and Bullriders by Richard Grant. A “travelogue” full of fascinating anecdotes on traveling in America—and history about all the different locations Grant visited in his fifteen years of travel—American Nomads is an interesting blend of American life, and what happens on the road as one crisscrosses the country. According to our reader, Grant examines the irresistible urge to travel, an ailment which, our reader said, “some people have...[but] I definitely do.” She continued, saying Grant’s book was truly incredible. It changed her life, appealing to both her thirst for knowledge and her own desires to travel the country.
Next, our readers looked at A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. It begins with Barnaby Gaitlin, a man trying to get his life back into order. After spending his adolescence in and out of trouble, Barnaby is making a desperate attempt to hold a steady job, repair his relationship with his parents, and set a better example for his daughter, Opal—but it doesn’t look like things are going to go as planned. Our Nevermore reader picked up A Patchwork Planet again, because she needed a good laugh after reading a series of serious novels and nonfiction works. Light and funny, A Patchwork Planet is, according to our reader, a very good book to read if looking for a story that’s full of tenderness and good-hearted people.
Following in the vein of light-hearted, whimsical novels was The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith. As part of an ongoing series, The Novel Habits of Happiness chronicles another investigation by amateur sleuth and philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie. It begins with a six-year-old boy who sees visions of his past life, who describes an island off the coast of Scotland where he claims to have once lived. When asked to investigate, Isabel agrees and, much to her surprise, discovers the island and the house—just as the boy described. Using all of her considerable skills as a sleuth and philosopher, Isabel begins to unravel an unexpected mystery. Our reader enjoyed her visit to Smith’s Ediburgh, saying it was easy-going and fun; however, she wasn’t completely enchanted with The Novel Habits of Happiness. It “was a good [book], but not great,” she explained.
Likewise, another reader had similar experience with The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. Set in New York City at the end of the nineteenth Century, The Gilded Hour follows the intersecting lives of Anna Savard and her cousin, Sophie, as they graduate from the Woman’s Medical School and help treat the city’s most vulnerable citizens. But when Anna is suddenly faced with the livelihood or four orphaned children, and Sophie finds herself in the sights of one of the most dangerous men in New York, their lives will never be the same. Our reader said it was a fine book—a little lengthy, a little dull at intervals, but overall enjoyable—however, she was a little disappointed the author didn’t have a satisfactory conclusion. Since Donati intends to write a sequel to The Gilded Hour (the title of which has not been released yet), her novel leaves a few questions unanswered for readers.
Last, our readers examined The Broker by John Grisham. Unlike The Novel Habits of Happiness and The Gilded Hour, our reader really enjoyed Grisham’s novel. Full of intrigue and suspense, The Broker follows Joel Backman, a former power broker who spent the last six years stashed away in a federal prison, as he struggles to acclimate to his new life and new CIA-issued identity in Italy—and fights to stay alive. Our reader greatly enjoyed The Broker, saying it was very fun to read and very interesting. He found the protagonist to be a very smart man, and he said it was interesting to see how (and if) Joel Backman survives despite having the CIA leak his location and assassins from multiple countries looking for him. Although he’d had the pleasure of already reading it once, our reader was glad he had the chance to read it again.