As we continue to settle in up here in Washington State, I’m getting exposed to a whole new-to-me group of writers. Sure, I knew about Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, but the Seattle area abounds with innovative, creative individuals. In fact, she and several other area writers have formed an organization, The Seattle 7 Writers (which includes ten writers, but who’s quibbling?). This fine organization provides a number of services designed to encourage reading, including creating pocket libraries and other projects to increase literacy in schools.
One of the Seattle 7 is Carol Cassella, who somehow juggles writing, two sets of twins, and, oh yeah, her job as an anesthesiologist. How does she do that? I’m having trouble keeping up with the writing duties. But I digress.
Oxygen is Cassella’s first book, which I liked so much that I bought her second, Healer. Keep watch, it may show up here one day in another review! While reading it, I discovered that Cassella grew up in Texas, so we have that whole Kevin-Bacon-Six-Degrees-of-Separation thing going on.
Dr. Marie Heaton is a respected anesthesiologist who comes face to face with catastrophe: the death of a child on the operating table. As lawyers swarm about like sharks smelling blood, she must also confront a troubled relationship with her aging father, whose eyesight is deteriorating. The lawsuit drags out and escalates to a breathtaking degree while she struggles to understand what happened that horrible day in the OR.
Reading Oxygen, I found myself on unexpected, familiar ground. She led me through my hometown Houston streets, and Dr. Heaton’s experience with her father bore eerie parallels to the decline of my late father-in-law. Also, my own father suffers from macular degeneration, so I know what it feels like to watch a parent going blind.
When a novel leads a reader to an unexpected place, a twist that feels natural and logical, that causes the reader to ask, “Why did I not see that coming?”, it’s a gem in my book. Oxygen does that and more.
Finally, Oxygen is a touching homage to the doctors who genuinely care about their patients. If I were going under the knife, I would be happy to have Dr. Heaton as my anesthesiologist…or better yet, Carol Cassella, since she’s a real person! 🙂