New York Times calls Karlawish’s historical novel “marvelous”

by Shaun Manning on November 29, 2011

KarlawishFrontThe New York Times reviewed Dr. Jason Karlawish’s historical novel Open Wound: The Tragic Obsession of Dr. William Beaumont, praising its precise treatment of the doctor/patient relationship–in particular, the unique doctor/patient relationship that existed between frontier physicial Dr. William Beaumont and gut-shot trapper Alexis St. Martin in the early 19th century.

Setting the unusual circumstances of Beaumont’s care in the context of more familiar terms–and suggesting that, despite radical advancements in the fields of medicine, some things never change–the Times said:

The relationship between doctor and patient is hard enough to parse when both are in the same room. When one opts out, it becomes even harder. And of the gallons of ink spilled over the centuries in attempts at clarification, few efforts in recent memory lay out the frustrations and confusions and crystalline moments of grace better than Dr. Jason Karlawish’s marvelous new book “Open Wound[.]”

Karlawish also dicussed his book on the Times’ Science Times podcast — listen here in your browser or click here to download in iTunes. His segment begins at 9:34.

In 1822, St. Martin came under Beaumont’s care when an accidental gunshot left St. Martin with a hole in his abdomen. Though St. Martin recovered, the wound never fully healed, giving Beaumont the (ethically dubious) opportunity to observe the human digestive system at work. St. Martin, unsurprisingly, was not always entirely pleased with this arrangement.

Karlawish’s Open Wound, bringing the conflicts, responsibilities, and interdependencies between Beaumont and St. Martin to life, is available now from the University of Michigan Press.

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