4 out of 4 stars
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In New Orleans, the constant tourism and vibrancy of life can become deafening. For the New Orleans University Hospital, it is no different. Michael Boudreaux is a surgeon that is letting work take up most of his life. This is especially true when his friend and mentor, Clayton Otherson, experiences a downfall in his practice, risking the lives of more patients and showing risky behaviors. This causes Michael, as chair of the OR board, to try to take action to keep Clayton from failing in his practice and keep the hospital's reputation. However, this causes tension between the two, affecting even their personal lives and relationships.
When I first began reading, the first thing I noticed was Coles' writing style. It seemed technical and matter-of-fact, much like a doctor's report would be. It really helped to set the general mood of the story, which although was ultimately a love story, took place largely surrounding a hospital and medical situations. Coles left out unnecessary details and allowed for the imagination to fill in the minor gaps that were intentionally left. The action was written out as if it were a movie script. Coles seemed to easily maneuver the act of "show don't tell" that is so vitally important in fictional works. Characters' emotions and motives were shown through their actions and their dialogues, not by being explicitly told by the author.
The setting of New Orleans really set this book apart from others of its kind. Throughout the first two parts of the novel, Michael and Clayton's lives seemed very ordinary for taking place in the heart of New Orleans. Michael even living in a small house in the French Quarter seemed strange for a man who almost never did anything aside from work. Although Coles allowed the setting to form around the story, the setting didn't absorb the characters or plot like so many other works fall prone to. In fact, Coles seemed to blame most of the party lifestyle that connects to New Orleans on the constant tourists that always seemed to plague the city.
The characters themselves seemed to fall flat at first, but by the end they were all so unique and well-developed that I had almost forgot what they were like in the beginning. I at first thought Michael to perfectly fill the trope of the workaholic who never slows down for personal interests. In Part Two when the events around Rosie unfolded, it became obvious that Michael had a much deeper desire to want his life fulfilled by something other than work. On the other hand, Catherine at first felt like she was just a gap-filler. She seemed like the basic trophy wife to Clayton and no more than an entertainer with a green thumb. By Part Three, she was a conflicted woman who felt as if she was trapped with everything in her life. I deeply appreciated her for not feeling dependent on Michael or Clayton at all throughout the novel. She was a strong woman who craved the independence that she seemed meant for. Other side characters, such as Helen and Mellissa, seemed as if they didn't matter to the narrative, but they ended up playing large parts in the events and character development that happens throughout the novel while still being their own complex individuals. I would honestly love to see Coles write things about Mellissa or Helen, as their stories and personalities had a lot more than just what was revealed in this story. Coles has a knack for creating characters that are each completely individual and unique without giving too many details or giving away plot devices. Every character has the possibility of playing a major role in the story.
Reading the synopsis of the novel makes it seem as if the plot is completely predictable. This is certainly not the case. Although I could pick up a couple of common tropes and clichés while reading, the way that Coles went about them was in unexpected and mysterious ways. The funeral scene in particular was the most unexpected for me, and I was truly shocked to see how it played out. Coles’ matter-of-fact writing style paired with the events of the plot worked strangely well together. It made the unexpected events that much more surprising because there isn’t a lot of obvious buildup that some amateur authors fall prone to.
In all, The Surgeon’s Wife is a quick read that doesn’t seem to fall short in any area. The plot is interesting, the characters are diverse and complex, and Coles’s writing style is the perfect vessel for this story to be told. Not only is it a conflict between two old friends, but a love story between two people that put off a meaningful and loving relationship for most of their lives. The end, although it was sudden, didn’t leave me hanging, but instead closed off the narrative in a great way. Although there could definitely be a sequel, possibly surrounding Clayton’s spiral into madness, it doesn’t feel necessary. I give The Surgeon’s Wife by William H. Coles 4 out of 4 stars.
The Surgeon's Wife
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