Pick of the Week: Five Days at Memorial
UNPUTDOWNABLE. I know that's not a word, but that's how I felt about this book. This is the gripping story of the doctors, nurses, family members, and patients trapped in New Orleans' Memorial Hospital for five days during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Retelling the story from the points of view of various people involved, author Sheri Fink made me feel as though I was right there amid the chaos and panic. Trapped without power in 110-degree heat, without working toilets, and with no organized plan of evacuation, these heroic hospital workers struggled to keep their patients alive... until the final hours in the building. When it appeared that some patients would not survive the ordeal, a decision was made to help them along on their path to the next world. Was it euthanasia? Was it ethical? As we like to say at the library, "You couldn't make this stuff up!"
Fink, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a medical doctor, has a gift for breaking down a complex situation into understandable parts. The ethical issues this book confronts are vast, but Fink provides just enough detail to frame the questions without oversimplifying. Despite the large cast of characters, I was never confused, because Fink reminds you who's who as she switches between situations. Her physical descriptions are vivid and evocative, and she paces the action briskly to keep the reader engaged.
This is non-fiction writing at its best: thought-provoking, suspenseful, and clear. I highly recommend it.