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Island Practice: Book Review

July 21, 2012

Island Practice
Pam Belluck
Perseus Books 374 pages
Dr. Timothy Lepore (pronounced to rhyme with peppery), is a doctor and a surgeon on the island of Nantucket. On an island sometimes cut off completely from the mainland by impassable fog, or stormy seas, his small hospital with a blood supply of only six pints or so in reserve, he has had to do a number of surgeries, like putting in a pacemaker with little to no practice or experience. He is a leading researcher in tick-borne diseases. He’s also the town medical examiner. He’s a hunter, a gun fanatic, a pragmatist, with a caustic sense of humor. “More what you’d expect if Ahab were played by Robin Williams,” an eccentric and a workaholic, constantly on call all over the island.

Despite the fact that I’m so squeamish about medical details that I cringe and cover my eyes, even when I’m watching Scrubs, I love reading a good medical biography or memoir. I find doctors’ personalities fascinating, and Dr. Lepore certainly has an outsize, possibly slightly crazy personality, drawn here as larger than life, an odd character on an insular island full of them. I love a good gossip about doctors and patients’ personalities. This book certainly delivers. A few shocking tales of bizarre injuries did make me squeal to read. (It’s a maritime and vacation town, fishhooks happen. Ick!) Oddball patients that were easy to like: the man who baked special cookies to help cancer patients, in essence providing medical marijuana; the two narcolepsy patients who took care of each other. Being a small town, there are complex issues, not just level of technology available, but how to treat psychological needs and maintain patient confidentiality. A few good medical mysteries, where science came front and center.

Definitely a good, engrossing read. Exactly what I want from narrative nonfiction and medical memoir.

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