Thursday, March 31, 2016

My Review of "The Real Doctor"

Matt McCarthy's The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly:  A Physician's First Year is a wonderfully funny (even if the humor is a bit dark) memoir, that continues much of what Matt began in his Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound With a Minor League Misfit

Two weeks out of Harvard Medical School, and fueled by a cocktail of adrenaline and coffee, McCarthy recounts what it's like to be an idealistic novice who's thrown into the deep end of a bustling hospital.  Working primarily in the cardiac care unit, but dipping his toes into other areas, his days are as varied as sorting through a patient's fecal matter looking for smuggled drugs, or poking and prodding a dying woman until he can find a vein for her IV.

But there's tragedy, too.  Worn down by long hours and his failure to connect with patients on a personal level, McCarthy makes his share of rookie mistakes.

But in the end this memoir is a confirmation of McCarthy's main belief:  "Amazing things happen here".

The humor often comes at McCarthy's expense.  But The Real Doctor is a real treat -- filled with stories that keep the reader turning pages.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Review of "Night Driving"

Addie Zierman's Night Driving:  A Story of Faith in the Dark is a masterful exploration of faith, isolation, and depression. 

On the surface, this memoir is a story about packing up her minivan and taking her children on a two-week road trip from Minnesota to Florida.  Having lost her connection to the Christian faith of her younger days, Zierman decides to outdrive her troubles by visiting friends, giving book readings, and doing publicity interviews.

Make no doubt about it, this is a spiritual memoir that pulls punches and tugs on a reader's heartstrings.  "Imagine opening your Bible and finding it to be a concrete slab in your lap."  But her struggle to avoid internal darkness that seems to permeate all her thoughts is a struggle that will resonate with so many readers.

I know it did with me.

It's those struggles that make Night Driving a book you don't want to put down.  It's a story about a renewed search for faith that is filled with refreshing, life-affirming moments.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Review of "Writing My Wrongs"

Shaka Senghor had once dreamed of becoming a doctor, but after his parents separated and his mother began beating him, he left home and fell in with crack dealers.  After being shot himself, he took to carrying a gun, and one night, shot and killed a man whom he felt threatened by.  Before long, he found himself sitting in prison for murder.

Writing My Wrongs:  Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison recounts his story from violence to redemption.  Writing helped him atone for his wrongs -- and the life he had taken.  It also provided a respite from the harsh day-to-day realities of his cell.

Reading was also a refuge -- and what a refuge it became.  From Malcolm X's Autobiography to The Bible to the Quran.

But make no doubt about it, the writing and the reading would probably give us a false sense of life in prison.  So Senghor gives us a window into the violence that underwrites so much of the prison experience in America -- from rape and robbery to murder.  The Darwinian rules of survival kept him alive on the streets during the crack epidemic and the "laws of the jungle" defined his life in prison.

Writing and studying provided Senghor with a refuge from the chaos of prison and a growing awareness that he wanted to turn his life around.  It was a resolution galvanized by his correspondence with the godmother of the man he had killed, who told him she forgave him.

Senghor was released from prison on June 22, 2010, the day after his 38th birthday, and after a series of part-time writing jobs, he started a mentoring program for at-risk youth.  And writing became the way he explored what forgiveness, atonement and reconciliation might look like for himself and others like him.

This is a moving account that will challenge what you think about prison, felons and violence.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Review of "Catholic Catalogue"

Melisa Musick and Anna Keating, who maintain the website upon which The Catholic Catalogue:  A Field Guide to the Daily Acts that Make Up a Catholic Life (, have given us a hands-on, useful guide to all the ways in which being Catholic involves passing along the embodied Christian faith of our ancestors.  This is a book that calls a whole generation of baptized Catholics to lay down their arms in the culture wars, and pick up the ways of being Catholic that pass along that faith in ancient patterns of keeping time and following those who have gone before us.

Christians have been setting tables and welcoming strangers and enemies at those tables for thousands of years.  The Catholic Catalogue is a clarion call -- a clear clarion call -- for us to continue caring for the sick, burying the dead, receiving Eucharist, marking the hours of dawn and dusk, keeping prayerful watch through the night, honoring and remembering martyrs, just as we have done for two thousand years.

But this is a book for more than Catholics.  It's a good introduction to the embodied faith of Christians of whatever stripe -- because ultimately this is a book about living in the world as the people of Jesus.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review here.