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Oxygenby Carol Cassella
Synopses & Reviews
With the compassion of Jodi Picoult and the medical realism of Atul Gawande, Oxygen is a riveting new novel by a real-life anesthesiologist, an intimate story of relationships and family that collides with a high-stakes medical drama.
Dr. Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has worked, lived and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. Marie has carefully constructed and constricted her life according to empirical truths, to the science and art of medicine. But when her tried-and-true formula suddenly deserts her during a routine surgery, she must explain the nightmarish operating room disaster and face the resulting malpractice suit. Marie's best friend, colleague and former lover, Dr. Joe Hillary, becomes her closest confidante as she twists through depositions, accusations and a remorseful preoccupation with the mother of the patient in question. As she struggles to salvage her career and reputation, Marie must face hard truths about the path she's chosen, the bridges she's burned and the colleagues and superiors she's mistaken for friends.
A quieter crisis is simultaneously unfolding within Marie's family. Her aging father is losing his sight and approaching an awkward dependency on Marie and her sister, Lori. But Lori has taken a more traditional path than Marie and is busy raising a family. Although Marie has been estranged from her Texas roots for decades, the ultimate responsibility for their father's care is falling on her.
As her carefully structured life begins to collapse, Marie confronts questions of love and betrayal, family bonds and the price of her own choices. Set against the natural splendor of Seattle, and inside the closed vaults of hospital operating rooms, Oxygen climaxes in a final twist that is as heartrending as it is redeeming.
"Powered by Cassella's 25 years in the medical field, this nicely wrought debut follows the travails of an experienced Seattle anesthesiologist after an eight-year-old patient dies while under the knife. In the aftermath, Dr. Marie Heaton is entangled in both her grief and a malpractice lawsuit. As the many meetings with attorneys blur together and autopsy results are awaited, Marie, who regrets having missed out on the 'intended stream of marriage and motherhood,' mediates the domestic squabbles in her sister's family; leans on and gets leaned on by colleague and ex-lover-turned-best friend, Joe Hillary; and tries to come to a dtente with her widowed father, who is losing his vision and with it his autonomy. As Marie is increasingly scrutinized, a few unexpected twists slyly work themselves into the investigation of the death, and the ice between Marie and her father slowly thaws. The prose is competent and the plot moves at a brisk pace, but the real hook is Cassella's knowing portrayal of the health industrial complex's inner workings; she knows the turf and doesn't spare readers the nasty bits. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This novel is written with a clear, even hand, and the reader feels like a part of the heady world of high-stakes surgery....[A] great read with some juicy surprises." BookReporter.com
"[A] vibrant debut....Oxygen" is the work of a writer who is in full command of her craft. In lesser hands, the story could have bogged in medical minutiae, but Cassella never loses sight of the fact that stories are most compelling when they are about people." Denver Post
"Cassella's musings on medicine are astute and probing....The ethics of the drama, and Cassella's portrayal of the very real and contemporary flaws in our health-care system, make this novel a promising debut." Seattle Times
"In Oxygen, Carol Cassella's taut novel, Dr. Marie Heaton, an assured anesthesiologist at the top of her game, is forced to face the personal and professional fallout from an operating room disaster. Marie finds herself on the losing end of dollars-and-cents medicine in a malpractice suit, questioning herself, her skills, her colleagues, and her life choices. I couldn't wait to race to the end to see how her story played out, and I wasn't disappointed." Lalita Tademy, author of Cane River
A compelling, complex, and riveting debut by a real-life anesthesiologist, Oxygen is at once a lyrically written medical adventure and a heartfelt drama in the tradition of Chris Bohjalian's Midwives and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.
A riveting new book that expertly combines compelling women's fiction with medical drama by a real-life anesthesiologist and student of David Guterson. Think Jodi Picoult meets Atul Gawande.
About the Author
Carol Cassella practices anesthesiology in Seattle and is a freelance medical writer specializing in global health advocacy for the developing world. She is a former student of David Guterson and graduated with a degree in English literature from Duke University. She is the mother of two sets of twins, 15 months apart, and is working on her next novel.
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