Book 41 of my 2014 Reading Challenge
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it.
Phoning Home: Essays by Jacob M. Appel
Summary (excerpted from Goodreads)Both erudite and full-hearted, Appel recounts storylines ranging from a bout of unrequited love gone awry to the poignant romance of his grandparents. We learn of the crank phone calls he made to his own family, the conspicuous absence of Jell-O at his grandaunt's house, and family secrets long believed buried. The stories capture the author's distinctive voice - a blend of a physician's compassion and an ethicist's constant questioning.
What a quietly satisfying book. Each essay was the perfect length for its story arc, and the author is especially good at writing endings...the final lines of each essay wrapped them up perfectly.
A lot of his essays included stories of his grandparents, which made me nostalgic - all of my grandparents have been gone for years and I miss them terribly. The essays regarding patients (identifying details changed of course) were respectful and still felt personal and emotional - the one about Mr. Charming and Mr. Devoted was especially touching.
I liked that a few pieces had the same theme but each one focused on something different (a moment that had a few sentences devoted to it in one story may have a few paragraphs in another), but I do have a small note about the editing. Each essay had been published before in various magazines as stand alone pieces and I feel that there was a little repetition that, while necessary for the original individual publications, could have been removed when putting them all together for someone to read one after the other.
Overall, a very enjoyable book and I would definitely read this author again.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Maybe that is the greatest of wonders: that we can be shaped so much by those we've known closely, and equally by those we've never known at all - and that we too can change the world long after we've left it."
"Such is the demographic paradox of a junior physician's relationship with his patients: I worry about how to extend their lives. This anxiety inevitably shortens my own."
"The most dangerous ideas are not those that challenge the status quo. The most dangerous ideas are those so embedded in the status quo, so wrapped in a cloud of inevitability, that we forget they are ideas at all. When we forget that the underpinnings of our society are conscious choices, we become woefully unprepared to challenge those choices. We also become ill equipped to defend them."