4 out of 4 stars
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Review: The Surgeon's Wife by William H. Coles
Two profoundly different characters, Mike Boudreaux and Clayton Otherson, have a lot more in common than they care to acknowledge. They are both surgeons, they share the same workplace, and eventually, they fall for the same woman. This atmospheric story revolves around medical malpractice, moral dilemmas and questions about obligatory relationships but is also about love, loneliness, (dis)loyalty and hope.
Mike, once his student and mentee, becomes Clayton's superior at work. That alone being strange, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Clayton performs popular weight-loss surgeries, which generate the most money for the hospital - he `near supports` the department. Being renowned, yet arrogant and too focused on the number of procedures, he does not always act in the patients' best interest. At least not anymore. This haughty surgeon eventually makes errors in judgement and becomes a danger to his (potential) patients, but he is too stubborn to admit any wrongdoing in the operating room. As a well-known and successful surgeon himself (`the best surgeon in the state, chief of surgery at the third largest hospital in the country`), Michael is torn between his responsibilities as chief and the strong sense of obligation towards Clayton - his colleague, former mentor and friend. Ironically, a terrible event makes it easier for Michael, as it urges him to take necessary measures. Then, the world as the characters know it changes drastically. Such a mess is infused with the unexpected course of events regarding family and marriage issues, and - love relationships.
In this book, William H. Coles investigates the complicated relationship between two doctors whose lives are tightly interwoven. I absolutely loved how he has adroitly painted the characters with dialogue, narration and innermost thoughts. Michael`s nature is well presented, giving readers a chance to `get to know him` quite well – at work, with patients and colleagues, during emergencies and a diverse range of situations regarding his personal life. He is often kind and very approachable and always willing to step up; reserved (he never socializes with his colleagues `unless absolutely necessary`) but very considerate. Michael seems to care about morality and strives to maintain a positive image of himself, yet not all of his deeds are ethical.
Catherine is passionate, smart and ambitious, but not happy. This surgeon's wife feels suffocated by increasing despair in marriage. I could feel her unhappiness throughout the book. It probably goes back to the very beginning - or the very reason - of her marriage (they were `thrown together for the convenience of social acceptance and advancement`). She sets off on a quest for true love and freedom. Will she ever truly be happy and fulfilled?
For me, the course of events concerning the decisive romantic relationship was not easy to understand. This love somehow blossoms at once. I would like to have had at least a hint of the intensity of emotions during the first part of the book. However, I believe that the author wanted to show how love can sometimes be, at first unconsciously, developed from admiration and just thinking highly of someone else (`…oddly, he found that her success had pleased him more than he would have expected.`). Were those two trying to keep a lid on their emotions?
All in all, The Surgeon's Wife is a story of tangled relationships, written in concise, realist language. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I liked the complexity of the characters and the intensity of events filled with distress, love, disaffected youth. I appreciate the themes underlying the story – those concerning true love and personal fulfilment; the (in)significance of family background, cross-class marriages, moral dilemmas and (non-)disclosure of medical errors.
To conclude, let me stress the very title of the book and reformulate the sentence from the beginning: this book is not only about a complicated relationship between two distinguished doctors whose lives are tightly interwoven but also about the dreams, feelings and actions with far-reaching consequences of the surgeon's wife. I believe that many readers who prefer dramatic plots would enjoy this book`s striking characters and the forward momentum of the story. The book pushes you to think more deeply about the characters` real nature and intentions behind their actions while wondering what you would do if faced with similar decisions.
The Surgeon's Wife
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