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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 détente 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With its small cast, one-note plot and obsessive earnestness, this is a claustrophobic, simple but readable ER-like combination of procedures and human drama." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] startling plot twist, combined with Cassella's first-hand understanding of our ailing health care system, makes this involving debut just what the doctor ordered." People
Now in paperback, Carol Cassella’s riveting national bestseller that seamlessly melds compelling women’s fiction and medical drama to create an “involving debut that’s just what the doctor ordered” (People).
• Perennial hot subject: From ER to Grey’s Anatomy, from Complications by Atul Gawande to Stiff by mary roach, there’s a proven appetite for stories of human drama centered around medical establishments.
• Authenticity: Carol Cassella is a practicing anesthesiologist in Washington state whose work informs that of her compelling heroine, Dr. Marie Heaton, as well as the fabulous medical writing throughout the novel.
• Gripping, timely story: Oxygen opens with Marie Heaton, an anesthesiologist at the height of her medical career, facing a nightmarish operating room disaster that ends a child’s life and launches a tangled malpractice suit. As Marie twists through depositions, accusations, and a remorseful preoccupation with the dead child’s mother, she must also cope with her own aging father and confront questions of love and betrayal, family bonds, and the price of her own choices. With a final twist as heartrending as it is redeeming, Oxygen is a gripping and auspicious debut.
About the Author
Carol Wiley Cassella majored in English Literature at Duke University and graduated from medical school in 1986. She currently practices anesthesiology in Seattle and is a freelance medical writer specializing in global public health advocacy for the developing world. She is the mother of two sets of twins and is working on her next novel.
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