Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Nevermore: Hawk's Hill, Doctor Death, She's Not There, Small Ghosts, Less Medicine

Reported by Ambrea

Our Nevermore meeting had an interesting selection of books this week, ranging from young adult fiction to Nordic thrillers to true crime.  First off, our readers looked at The Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert.  An ALA Notable Book and Newberry Honor Book, The Incident at Hawk’s Hill is a moving little novel about a boy who manages to survive against insurmountable odds and forge an incredible bond with a female badger.  Six-year-old Ben is incredibly small for his age and he seems to like animals more than people, a quality which his parents find rather disconcerting.  And then one day, Ben simply disappears, slipping into the prairie grasses around Hawk’s Hill.  His journey is, according to our reader, a poignant tale that’s beautifully written.  It follows in a “good tradition” of novels that, she said, can appeal to readers of all ages.

Next, our readers switched gears and dived back into a familiar genre:  Nordic thrillers.  In Doctor Death by Lene Kaaberbøl, Madeleine Karno is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps as a doctor of forensic science.  Not an unusual dream for a driven, intelligent young woman—except the year is 1894, and her ambitious career choices are seen as decidedly perverse.  Regardless of the social stigma, Madeleine follows her father doggedly and helps him solve the mysterious death of a young woman on the snow streets of Varbourg.  They must decide whether her death is due to a frightening new disease or a terrifyingly clever murderer.  One of our Nevermore members sang praises for Kaaberbøl’s latest novel, saying it as a wonderful novel with supernatural undertones and fascinating historical anecdotes.  Although he warned the novel does have some sexually explicit and graphic material, he said it was worth reading for its depictions of early forensic science and its engaging story.

Following in the same vein of thrillers, our readers also looked at She’s Not There by Joy Fielding.  Fifteen years ago, on a fateful family trip to Baja, Mexico, Caroline Shipley lost her two-year-old daughter Samantha and watched her world collapse.  Now, after experiencing weeks, months, years of regret, Caroline is offered a thin strand of hope:  a young woman calls her on the phone, claiming her name just might be Samantha—claiming she just might be their lost daughter.  Our reader said She’s Not There is a fascinating, thought-provoking novel that delves deeply into mother-daughter relationships and the tragedies that tear apart families.  She pointed out that it’s not a very uplifting novel and, while she found it interesting at some points, she said it was a plot she was okay with not remembering.

Next, Nevermore explored a new true crime book by Laura Tillman, The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, which recounts the tragic story of three young children who were brutally murdered by their parents in Brownsville, Texas.  On March 11, 2003, John Allen Rubio and Angela Camacho murdered their three young children—and the building in which they were murdered, a rundown apartment complex, became a frightening symbol in the community that many believed was “plagued by a spiritual cancer.”  Tillman, a journalist with The Brownsville Herald, covered the story in 2008 with the proposed demolition of the building and she meticulously traces the history of John Allen Rubio and his wife, as well as delves deep into the history of one of America’s most impoverished towns.  With stunning clarity and compassion, Tillman explores the aftermath of this horrible crime and its effects on Brownsville.  Our reader said Tillman’s book was absolutely fascinating and, she admitted, she couldn’t put it down.  It’s a tragic story that depicts “horrendous, horrible events”, but it’s very well-written and incredibly informative.

Last, we took a close look at Less Medicine, More Health:  7 Assumptions That Drive Too Much Medical Care by Dr. H. Gilbert Welch.  It begins with a single premise:  too much medical care can harm just as much as too little health care.  Welch announces in his book that he often believes patients can be harmed from being exposed to too much treatment, being made to worry about diseases they don’t have or exposed to the harmful side effects of the testing process.  In Less Medicine, More Health, Welch lays out seven assumptions that drive medical care and the United States’ thinking about medical care—and he systematically breaks them down into understandable chapters.  Our reader said Welch’s book was both accessible, attractive, and inviting, which allowed readers to fully sink into his work.  He recommended it for casual reading, but, in looking for a deeper understanding of healthcare and the healthcare system, he said it was only “so-so.”

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