3 out of 4 stars
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The Surgeon’s Wife by William H. Coles tells the story of New Orleans surgeon Mike Boudreaux and his tumultuous relationships with a colleague and mentor, Dr. Clayton Otherson, and his family. As chief of surgery, Boudreaux navigates the tricky path of dealing professionally and personally with Otherson’s growing incompetence in the operating room. As Otherson’s professional behavior and mental well-being begin to be called into question by his peers in the medical community, his wife seeks out Boudreaux’s support during this confusing time for her marriage. The two fall in love, beginning an affair that complicates Boudreaux’s professional duties and personal relationship with his mentor.
I rate The Surgeon’s Wife with 3 out of 4 stars. This book is engaging. The love triangle, against the backdrop of the protagonist’s navigation through the complexities of the medical investigation, is believable. It is very well-written and explores social inequalities inherent in both New Orleans society as well as the greater American medical system.
What I most enjoyed about the book was the investigation into the questionable practices that exist within the privatized medical system. Otherson’s professional problems stem from his promotion of a surgery targeted toward the obese that has specific indications for patient candidates and limited positive results. As Otherson begins to ignore the indications, and as more patients begin to experience complications rather than an enhanced life, his practices are called into question by his peers. I was fascinated by the exploration of the culture and hierarchy within the medical board and doctor groups who operate with the goal of upholding patient well-being, while at the same time either protecting or destroying careers. I also thought the downward psychological spiral of Otherson was fascinating and believable, tracking his behavior and emotional state leading to and through the crumbling of his career and marriage.
What I disliked most about this book was the relationships between Mellissa Otheron, Clayton and Catherine’s daughter, and both her father and Boudreaux. The complexity and confusion that I would think would exist did not seem to be conveyed to me on the page. It seems more of a case that one relationship was great, one was damaged beyond repair. However, the decisions Mellissa makes towards the end of the novel do demonstrate her desire to escape the chaos that the adults in her life have created around her.
I would recommend this book to all fiction lovers. The story’s themes of social inequality, medical and social justice, and doctor ethics and professionalism are extremely relevant and interesting. The love story is believable and heart-breaking.
The Surgeon's Wife
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