Monday, July 16, 2012

Review: Beat the Reaper

Let me just say up front that experience tells me it is not a good idea to read Beat the Reaper right before going to sleep. It's not that I actually had any nightmares about shark tanks or sex trafficking or Auschwitz or the mafia or botched surgeries or revenge killings. But I could have,  and I certainly worried that I would, and that's all Josh Bazell's fault.

Doggone it, Josh! Couldn't you have written a bad book so I could stop reading? Noooo. You had to go on and write a terrific book that happens to be full of graphic descriptions of violence and/or really terrible hospital practices (seeing as your protagonist is a mafia hit man has used his time in the Witness Protection Program to become a doctor). I had to read peeking through my fingers to find out what happened. And remind me never to go in the hospital! (It is not comforting to know that Bazell is an MD; the blurb on the back says, "He wrote Beat the Reaper while completing his internship at a hospital not at all like the one described in this book." I am not reassured.)

I have to recommend this; it's too good not to recommend. Funny, smart, well-written, well-plotted, great characters (though I thought Magdalena was slightly underdeveloped; it's a very masculine book). So I say read it. But for those with similarly sensitive dispositions, I am here to help you. Here are the parts you can safely read or safely skim for maximum nightmare/flashback reduction.

Read: The part where he breaks the mugger's arm (unpleasant, but necessary), the hit on the Virzi brothers, the first trip to the shark tank, the visit to Auschwitz, most of the hospital stuff.

Skim: The stomach surgery, the rescue at the Farm, the second trip to the shark tank.

If there are others I've forgotten to mention, I apologize. I have apparently blanked them out of my mind. It says something, though, that I have instantly put Bazell's next book on hold. It says something else that I am very, very glad that Nora Ephron's memoir, I Remember Nothing, is waiting for me at the library. Nora, I can't wait to spend a little cozy chat time with you.

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