I read The Mystery of Breathing by Perri Klass last night (from 9:30 p.m. until 1:15 a.m., but that is beside the point), and it was so disappointing. So disappointing. I love mysteries, and this looked like a doctor mystery (with which I have a valid interest), and I wanted to find a new author to read and love, and . . . and. . . and. . . I was so disappointed.
This is not turning into a book blog, really it's not, but I needed to talk about this, and I forgot to talk about it at playgroup. (And also, until I can get John to upload the pictures of Olivia's fiesta to the internet from the school computers, I don't have an easy bloggable family topic.)
It has a sex scene about 3/4 of the way through, which is easily skipped (I did) and doesn't affect the plot, just in case anyone wants to read the book after I have thoroughly un-recommended it. (You can't say I didn't warn you--on several levels.)
The book is about a neonatologist (Maggie) in a large Boston hospital who starts receiving poison pen letters. She's a strong-willed, ambitious, driven, but kind-hearted protagonist, so she has the reader's sympathy, and the letters are completely without merit.
These are my disappointments:
1. The reader figures out who is writing the letters, and the detective (who is strangely, for a mystery, not the hero) figures it out circumstantially, but the hospital refuses to do anything, and the book leaves it at that. Completely unresolved.
2. The writing style is in the second-person, frequently referring to the reader as "you," which should make it more personal, but at the same time, the author has these strange chapters of confusing non-explanation, which alienated at least me. (Of course, we must consider the time of day that I was reading this book. Very easily confused, so maybe everyone else could get it.)
3. Not only does the hospital refuse to do anything about the poison pen writer (who is a doctor), but it seems there is no consequence at all for this guy. I like my justice cut and dried in books, especially mystery novels. Put the bad guy in jail, or kill him off--that's satisfying. He even breaks into her (Maggie's) house, accidentally poisons a baby (long story, not worth explaining), helps the baby, but makes her mom think she's been kidnapped, and NOTHING happens. What good is fiction, if we can't do something to this guy.
4. The book winds itself down with Maggie slowly going crazy over the horrible letters she's receiving and the horrible things being put on posters all around the hospital. She has breakdowns, and she doesn't get a promotion she deserves, and she lashes out at people. Just a tad on the unbelievable side, at least the way it's written.
4. The book ends with Maggie pregnant, after years of being unable to conceive. Dumb. How does that fix anything? I guess it may explain the breakdowns, of course, but it just felt like another unsatisfying twist.
And that's the word I would use to describe this book: unsatisfying. Certainly not worth staying up too late to read. But (to defend myself), I just kept thinking it would get better. It had to get better. (And, to be fair, the descriptions of the NICU and the nurses and the procedures and the interactions with the babies and their parents were interesting. They were the only redeeming features of the book.)
So, there you go. I think my review has been extremely helpful. If any of you had The Mystery of Breathing on your must-read list, you can take it off. Unless you like the feeling of being left hanging--then this is the book for you.
I'm just wondering, in the interest of full disclosure, what book would you want to "un-recommend"? (So I can take them off my list.)