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Patient 002: A Novelby Floyd Skloot
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of In the Shadow of Memory, a memoir of living with brain damage that won the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award and was a finalist for the 2003 Barnes & Noble Discover Award, comes a gripping novel about the battleground of human medical research — told from the patient's point of view.
At 41, Sam Kiehl was a successful political consultant, a long-distance runner and rock climber, the single father of a grown son, and lover of a popular newspaper columnist. Then he contracted a virus that targeted his brain and left him totally disabled. With few treatment options available, and his health continuing to worsen, Sam seizes upon the chance to offer himself as a subject in the clinical field trial of a new drug, Zomalovir. He becomes "Patient 002" and joins a group of patients from all walks of life who are similarly afflicted and similarly desperate. What happens to Sam, to the young woman named Tracy Marsh with whom he is partnered, and to the others in his group, provides a sometimes shocking, sometimes humorous, always dramatic picture of human medical research, a world seldom seen. As the research subjects respond — or fail to respond — to their experimental treatment, as participating doctors and nurses observe, and as Physicians for Ethical Research, the pharmaceutical company that developed the drug and operates the study, deals with harsh truths about the costs and risks of conducting research, Patient 002 becomes a riveting tale of choices made and consequences faced at the center of the illness experience.
Patient 002 is also a love story, as Sam discovers passion and romance in an unexpected places. It's also a novel of friendships forged in extreme circumstance, and of the human capacity for survival in the face of overwhelming obstacles. "Beware of hopefulness," a character in the novel says. Yet Patient 002, especially when the patients take matters into their own hands in surprising ways, is a novel of hope, healing and astonishing actions.
"Medical research subjects get the shaft before striking back in Skloot's latest, an amusing and absorbing novel that pits a motley crew of Davids against a callous corporate Goliath. Sam Kiehl, a 42-year-old Vietnam vet and political analyst, signs up for a double-blind placebo-controlled study at an esteemed research center in Oregon after being diagnosed with herpes. The curiously named pharmaceutical company, Physicians for Ethical Research (PER), is optimistic over its promising drug, Zomalovir. Sam soon strikes up a romance with his massage therapist, Jessica Foster, but after PER goes bankrupt and cancels the Zomalovir study, the distraught subjects (including Sam) resort to desperate measures to continue receiving treatment. Skloot, the author of three novels, three memoirs and five volumes of poetry, treats the complicated and often absurd protocols of drug studies with an authoritative, compassionate touch. The balance of humor, romance and cold observation makes for a commendable yarn." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Skloot turns an involving tale of the mind-body puzzle with a magnetic cast of unusual characters into an archly funny caper, infusing this masterfully understated, tender, and shrewd tale of love and healing with insight, compassion, and a touch of righteous indignation." Booklist
"Patient 002 is an absolutely riveting novel. I'm not sure what I savored more: The way I was frenetically turning the pages, or all I was learning about the ways drugs are tested on humans. This is a terrific book: A thriller that is at once literary and spellbinding, and an exploration of the desperate hope we now bring to modern medicine." Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of Midwives and The Double Bind
"With Patient 002, we are reminded once again that Floyd Skloot is one of America's finest underrated writers. This is a novel of great sensitivity and depth, with characters who feel real and for whom we feel great compassion. So much of Skloot's writings display a mastery of human pain and the way in which people live with damage and great dignity. And yet the unpleasant symptoms of his fictional world are miraculously contained within stories that are engaging, humorous, and life-affirming. If novels were meant to be agents of healing, then Patient 002 is the perfect pill for a house call." Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible
"Captivating story-telling infused with taut, real-life drama. Floyd Skloot's characters get a grip on you and they don't let go. A wonderful read." Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava
Fiction. "After writing piercing and lucid memoirs and poems about his struggles with a neurological disorder, Skloot returns to fiction in his first novel in 10 years [PATIENT 002] to ponder the anguished yet sometimes munificent revelations of illness, while taking a few shots at the pharmaceutical industry. A helicopter pilot in Vietnam and an athletic and fiery opinion analyst in Portland, Oregon, Sam is afflicted with a cruelly marauding virus that is obliterating his physical strength and mental acuity. He signs up for a drug trial, hoping for a miracle cure, as does the hyperchatty Tracy, who seems to be getting better until the program is abruptly aborted by the perhaps speciously named Physicians for Ethical Research. Sam, abetted by Jessica, who is equally skilled in therapeutic massage and computer hacking, decides to fight back. Skloot turns an involving tale of the mind-body puzzle with a magnetic cast of unusual characters into an archly funny caper, infusing this masterfully understated, tender, and shrewd tale of love and healing with insight, compassion, and a touch of righteous indignation."-Donna Seaman, Booklist.
About the Author
Floyd Skloot's memoir, In the Shadow of Memory, [University of Nebraska Press, 2003], won the 2004 PEN Center USA Award in Creative Nonfiction, the 2004 Independent Publishers Book Award in Creative Nonfiction, and the 2003 Oregon Book Award in creative nonfiction. That book was one of three Finalists for the 2003 Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the 2004 PEN Award in the Art of the Essay; it was named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Chicago Tribune; was a Book Sense 76 recommended title—and received overwhelming and unconditional praise.
Skloot's new memoir, A World of Light, was published recently. Also a poet and novelist, Skloot has had work anthologized in Best American Essays [twice], Best American Science Writing [twice], The Art of the Essay, and the 2004 Pushcart Prize Anthology. He has been featured in Poets & Writers, among other publications, and his work has also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Poetry, Boulevard, The Hudson Review, Southern Review, Sewanee Review, Georgia Review, Virginia Quarterly Review and most of the leading literary journals in this country, as well as in Ireland, England, Wales, and Australia.
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