The Second Opinion – by Michael Palmer (2009)

The Second Opinion

Dr. Petros Sperelakis is an internal medicine physician who helped start the Beaumont Clinic, a hospital specializing in diagnosing and treating terminal illnesses. When Petros is in an auto accident that leaves him comatose, his four children rush to be with him. It is doubtful that Petros will regain consciousness. Three of his children are okay with turning off the devices that are keeping their father alive. Only Thea, the daughter who has devoted her life to Doctors Without Borders in the Congo, disagrees. She believes that her father is actually conscious and aware of his surroundings, but unable to communicate. As she finds a way to “talk” with him, questions begin to arise. Was the car accident really an accident? Is the tight security around the hospital’s patients’ medical records abnormal? Did her father know something that someone doesn’t want revealed?

I listened to an abridged audio version of this book. The narrator, Franette Liebow, did a masterful job of speaking exactly as a person with Asperger’s Syndrome (Thea) would – somewhat flat and a bit staccato. Everything was very logical and literal for her. Throughout the novel, you could see the situation through her eyes. Her brother, Dimitri, also had Asperger’s, but we were not permitted to see into his mind.

There was a bit of language and some sexual content, which I basically skipped over for the most part by jumping to the next CD track. (Each track was 60 seconds or less, so there was not much lost.) There was also a gory scene at one point, which could make some readers feel squeamish. But overall, I found it to be a good medical mystery-thriller and the villain someone I did not suspect.

About the author: Michael Palmer was an internal medicine physician himself, first working in his own practice, and later working in an emergency room. After a failed marriage and a series of knee surgeries, Michael became addicted to alcohol and pain medication, and lost his job. He got psychiatric help for his problems, and began writing as a form of therapy. Later, he began to do interviews and bring awareness to the issue of substance abuse among physicians. In 2013 he suffered a heart attack and died, but he leaves behind many medical novels.

 

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House Rules – by Jodi Picoult (2010)

House Rules

The description inside this book will tell you that “House Rules” is about a young man – Jacob Hunt – who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is charged with killing his tutor, Jess Ogilve. Did he really kill her? While the trial is a big part of the story, it seems to me that the real story is Jacob’s struggle to live day-to-day with Asperger’s, and how it affects every member of the family. The telling of the story rotates between Jacob, his mother Emma, his younger brother Theo, his attorney Oliver, and the police investigator Rich. The timeline jumps back and forth between the present and the years of Jacob as a child.

I came to appreciate each character in the story after reading their point of view. Emma’s love for her son, her patience, her willingness to do whatever it took to give her son a “normal” life, was inspiring. When Theo expressed how overlooked he felt over the years as all the attention was focused on his brother, I felt great sympathy for him. As Oliver and Rich told their parts of the story, I could see how conflicted they were about Jacob. And Jacob – it was just plain amazing to see how he viewed the world and the people around him.

After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of Asperger’s. There is a small amount of content and language that some readers may object to, but overall this is a well-written novel worth reading. It is also available as an audiobook, with different narrators reading the parts of the main characters.