Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Temporary Perfections by Giancarlo Carofiglio

Temporary PerfectionsTemporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Temporary Perfections is the fourth book in the Guido Guerrieri series written by Giancarlo Carofiglio, a former Italian prosecutor. Carolfiglio worked in Bari, Puglia, and that is where he bases his series character, Guerrieri.

Guerrieri is an introspective loner who works out his problems or puzzles conversing with his big punching bag, both with his fists and in one-sided conversations. Occasionally the swinging bag’s release of momentum will provide a bit of insight for the intellectual detective, at least as he sees it.

In Temporary Perfections, an attorney friend, Sabino Fornelli, asks Guerrieri to review the police report for the disappearance of a young woman, Manuela Ferraro. The police had been investigating for six months and with no new evidence were preparing to close the case. Fornelli was asking Guerrieri to look at the investigative file with fresh eyes.

The girl had bought a ticket to return from Bari to Rome but never arrived. An ex-boyfriend with violent tendencies is suspected initially, but his cell phone records showed that he was out of the country.

Even though, like Fornelli, Guerrieri is an attorney, not an investigator, he agrees to at least review the file. As he reviews it, he realizes that to do a complete job he is going to have to reinterview the friends of Manuela who were the most likely people to see her last.

He interviews Manuela’s closest friends, her roommate Nicoletta, her best friend Caterina, and Anita, a girl who gave her a ride to the train station. He makes some mistakes, like having one witness be present as he interviews another and becoming too close with a witness. There were no thrills or spills, no shots fired, no knife work, and no blood flow.

Still, I enjoyed the story. Carofiglio has a good voice. His characters are well-developed and speak realistic lines. The cozy plot has plenty of empathy and interesting side stories. Guerrieri is an interesting man who often gets overwhelmed with his inner dialog. An interesting side story where he befriends a former prostitute who he defended once and now has opened a gay bar near Guerrieri’s home really shows his heart…and his loneliness.

If you need a nice palate cleanser after a particularly dark novel, Temporary Perfections would be a good choice.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

<b>The Library Book</b>The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're an occasional reader or you've ever thought about a library, you need to read The Library Book by Susan Orlean. However, if you are an ardent reader, a person passionate about fine writing, a person captivated by a writer's ability to take dry information and turn it into magical prose, then you also need to read The Library Book. The Library Book could have been a simple and straightforward nonfiction account of a fire, possibly arson, that severely damage the Los Angeles Central Library building, the Goodhue Building, but in the hands of Susan Orlean it becomes something special.

Orlean doesn't just lay out the facts of the fire, the people and processes of the investigation, and the years long ramifications that crippled the system's operations. She delves into the history of a library system as it built through fits and starts from a system supporting a small western city of 12,000 to one of the largest library systems supporting one of the country's largest cities. Orlean introduces readers to the leaders and many of the staff who, through a myriad of duties and hearts full of empathy, support everyone from Hollywood producers, to children, to the homeless community. Orlean informs readers about library science in general and we see how it has progressed over the decades.

If you've ever wondered how librarians keep busy and how valuable their duties are to readers and the broader community, after reading The Library Book you won't fail to give every librarian you encounter a smile and a thank you. They are special people and in Susan Orlean's hands, we see why.

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spoiler Alert: We’re all going to die.

For the majority of us that will come via the afflictions of old age or of some disease. How we, our families, our social framework, and the medical community deal with that inevitability is the basis of BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande.

Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of LifeBox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally.

Gawande walks his readers through the changing demographics influencing the landscape of care for the aged and the terminally ill. He covers the growth of secondary housing (nursing homes and assisted living centers) and the social aspects of who controls how residents interact with the world around them, how much autonomy residents have, and what is more important, safety or quality of life, for instance. He covers the development of advanced therapies for fighting cancers and how doctors must learn to decide when the best thing to do is nothing and how to communicate with families about those choices.

Gawande uses examples from the patients of other medical professionals, his own patients, and even his own father to illustrate the problems facing society today. How do you tell a patient that entering a nursing home is necessary for their safety when they are used to being independent? How do you encourage patients to consider end-of-life issues when they want to keep fighting a terminal disease in its later stages? Gawande is careful to relate that he struggles with these issues too, and the right solution is probably different for every patient and their family.

I lost my father to pancreatic cancer in 1988 and my wife to appendiceal cancer in 2015. Neither was a good experience, but the availability of hospice made having my wife at home in her last days of such value to her and our family. My wife’s passing was peaceful. My father spent the last three or more weeks of his life in a hospital bed and it was anything but peaceful.

BEING MORTAL is an important book that everyone should read. Gawande doesn’t purport to have all the answers, but he does lay out a pathway for each of us to follow in trying to do what’s right for ourselves or our family members. It is an essential tool for all of us.

View all my reviews