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“The Doctor Will See You Now”

  • By Cory Franklin, MD
  • c. 2018, Academy Chicago
  • $16.99, $22.99 Canada; 271 pages

The appointment was made months ago. That gave you plenty of time for anticipation, to think about whatever news you might get. To ponder the discomfort. To think about health care in general, while you sit in your physician’s waiting room. And if you take “The Doctor Will See You Now” by Cory Franklin, MD, you’ll have a lot more to think about while you’re waiting.

So you’ve walked in and taken a seat. Are you in a hospital clinic or private practice room?  Franklin says that it’s likely the former; federal rules and regs have made it “prohibitively expensive” for anyone to start a private practice.

That you’re in a larger clinic setting means it’s likely that the facility uses computerized records. That’s good, and it’s bad. Studies show that computerized record use sometimes results in less face-time and personal attention from caregivers. There are also issues of medical privacy involved, the strength of which wanes as computerized record use increases and big tech dips its toe into medical record-keeping and research.

Ah, and studies. Needless to say, they’re often flawed: they may ignore the very young or the very old, or even half the population (women). Read them, try to understand them, but take them at face value. Most importantly, don’t use them as an excuse to skip your appointment or any tests you need.

Overall, be your own patient advocate. If you feel overwhelmed, take someone with you to help make sense of what’s going on – and that goes doubly for a hospital admission, ER visit, or if you have cancer, and especially on holidays and weekends.

Know how to tell a charlatan’s advice from real medical knowledge, and don’t put blind faith in what you see on TV. Remember that medicine is a business, and it sometimes expands into questionably ethical territory. And finally, remember that whatever happens outside in the world affects what’s inside your body …

ACA, Obamacare, insurance rates, Medicare, Alphabet Plans. It’s enough to make your head spin, which is why you’ll appreciate reading about a physician’s POV in “The Doctor Will See You Now.”

At first look, though, this book may appear to be a lot of common-sense stuff. You already know about flawed studies, questionable diseases, and HIPAA rules broken, but author Cory Franklin, MD helps sort things out, even though his observations sometimes get messier as the facts pile up in subsequent chapters. Happily, those sections that delve deeply into serious matters are separated by lighter thoughts: Franklin does a wonderful job enlightening readers about unsung and little-known heroes and heroines in medical history, and he lauds them in words that leave no doubt as to whom we owe our health and gratitude.

Be aware that this bandage-ripping book may raise your blood pressure with its dip into politics and controversy but you owe it to yourself to be educated. Especially if you value your health (or need to be healthier), “The Doctor Will See You Now” is a book you should make an appointment with.  

“Housegirl”

  • By Michael Donkor
  • c. 2018, Picador
  • $16, $21 Canada; 309 pages

You’re up for this. This next thing is going to be a challenge, but you’re ready. You’ve studied it as much as you can and you’ve thought it through, you’re bringing your best talents and your keenest observation skills, and you got this. You can do it. Still, as in the new book “Housegirl” by Michael Donkor, it won’t be easy.

Mary was often too impetuous. Belinda didn’t mind, though. Mary was still a child, not quite a teenager, and she still sucked her thumb at night. Sometimes, she was an exasperation but mostly, she was like a sister to Belinda, even though they were unrelated house girls from small Ghanaian villages, given up by their mothers to work for wealthy people.

Given by her mother. That hurt, but it was why Belinda didn’t feel she had much choice when her employer, Aunty, gifted Belinda to her friend, Nana, with an odd assignment attached. Belinda would move to London – not to cook and clean, but to serve as a good example for Nana’s daughter, Amma, who was just a year older than Belinda, but worlds away in attitude.

It was not easy for Belinda to tell Mary that she was leaving. Mary cursed and cried but in the end, she was comforted by promises that she and Belinda would talk often on their cell phones. Belinda was sure Mary would adjust, maybe even take over the running of Aunty’s household. Mary would grow up.

In the meantime, Belinda had other worries. Nana’s husband paid for Belinda to go to school, and Nana took her shopping for new clothes. They gave her a room of her own, a bed of her own, and pretty things for decoration. But Amma was a challenge – she was sassy and cursed, lied and snuck around. Belinda liked Amma but befriending her could be quite another thing.

Still, the two girls grew close and they began to share secrets. Belinda unburdened herself of the shameful things her mother had done. Amma told Belinda that she liked girls in that way. Both knew they’d have to rely on one another in days to come.

Neither knew their friendship would cause regrets…

Absolutely, “Housegirl” is not an easy book to read. Parts of it are written in the Ghanaian language of Twi, and though there’s a glossary before this story starts, it’s cumbersome to constantly page back and forth.

More back-and-forth comes from character conversation in which it isn’t always clear who’s saying what, so it all ends up being a mish-mash of words. Add to that a number of odd details that seem pruriently gratuitous (do we really, for example, need to know about a character’s need for hygiene products? The answer is “no.”)  and you’ve got a lot of cringing ahead.

That’s too bad; the characters are mostly very likeable, maybe even relatable, and the settings are perfectly written. That makes “Housegirl” flawed, though it’s not a terrible novel; it’s just that, if you try it, it’s going to be a challenge.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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