Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Nevermore: Organ Thieves, Anxious People, Good Dogs, Old Man's War, Study in Scarlet Women, Too Much and Never Enough

 Reported by Garry



Our first reader reviewed the true story Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South by Chip Jones. Our reader was moved by how this book lays out the incredible disparity between black medical service and white medical service, and cited the example of St. Phillips Hospital in Richmond. St. Phillips was a historically black hospital and people were appalled when they visited by the lack of everything – supplies, surgical theaters etc. Until it was shut down in the 1970s, it was considered a place to go to die. Astoundingly, the medical students at the Medical College of Virginia used to go to the black cemeteries to grave-rob and use the bodies as cadavers for their studies. The black community talked about the night thieves and were laughed at – many were afraid to allow their children out during the night in case they never came home. The centerpiece story in the book surrounds the case of a black man, Bruce Tucker, who went to the Virginia College of Medicine Hospital with severe head trauma. His heart was taken out of his body while it was still beating and transplanted into the body of a white businessman. Tucker’s family was never notified or asked for permission to do this – they only found out after Tucker’s heart was discovered missing at the funeral home. Douglas Wilder, who went on to become the first African American governor not only of Virginia, but of any state since Reconstruction, represented the family in its landmark lawsuit against VCM, which led to stringent laws controlling the harvesting and transplanting of human organs.


Next up was Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. This book is about someone who made a mistake and how other characters are drawn into the mistake. The main character robs a bank and flees into an Open House at a nearby apartment. Every person in the apartment is hooked into the bad mistake of the robbery. Our reader really liked how you get to know all the people in the story, even though it is not told in a linear way. She loved this book, saying it was filled with laughter and humanity, and is a really sweet book.


The next book was one that another of our group had read previously and reviewed at a previous meeting:  Good Dogs Don’t Make It To the South Pole by Hans-Olav Thyvold. Like our previous reviewers, this week’s reader really enjoyed it.


The same reader is grateful to Kristin for the Science Fiction recommendation of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. She was pleasantly surprised by the amount of humor in the book. The book is about a society about that allows and even encourages 75-year-olds to sign up to be in an outer space military.  These seniors are given renewed young bodies to go fight the wars – there is a lot of fun in it. The Hugo award winner novelist is also prolific; this is the first in a series of six along with dozens of other standalone novels and series.


Our next reader listened to A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas. This historical fiction series is about a woman who pretends that Sherlock Holmes is her brother, and calls herself Charlotte Holmes, and investigates on his behalf, even though Sherlock is made up. Charlotte didn’t want to get married and tied down as so many women were in Victorian society, so she had an affair with a married man in order to be labeled a “fallen woman” who could then do anything she wanted. In the second book Conspiracy in Belgravia, Lady Ingram wants Sherlock to find her first love, Myron French, who is Charlotte’s illegitimate half-brother, and Lady Ingram’s husband is Charlotte’s benefactor and friend. Our reader found these two books to be mindlessly funny and twisted.  


A current and timely book was reviewed next:  Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s niece. Our reader highly recommended it in order to help understand the current U.S. president. This book delves into the dysfunctional Trump family history. According to the book, Donald’s father, Fred, was a sociopath and had no empathy; he saw people only a tools to be used.  The mother became ill and withdrew from the family, her only limited contact being with her daughters.  Without their mother’s influence, both sons sought to please their father. Fred Trump, Sr. wanted his sons to take over the real estate empire he had built, but his older namesake son (Mary’s father) was too human: he had friends, compassion, and his own goals. He earned his pilot’s license, something that he loved, and accomplished real things on his own. Fred had total contempt for everything Fred Jr. did and subsequently wrote him and his branch of the family out of the will. His second son, Donald, proved to be the heir he wanted. Donald had witnessed what happened if you didn’t please dad so he was determined to do anything to stay on top. Our reader believes that Donald coped with this toxic environment by not listening to anybody and lying and building the myth of himself where net worth is equated to personal worth. Mary Trump believes that Donald has been enabled every step of the way, first by his father and then by the banks who continued to back him as his enterprises became a “too big to fail” sort of situation. She believes that he is surrounded by people who won’t confront him but just stroke his ego.  Our reader found it very sobering to think how many people enable this man to spin his own greatness at such cost to other people.

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