Doctor Olaf Van Schuler’s Brain ~ Kirsten Menger-Anderson

olaf-vanKirsten Menger-Anderson’s collection of short stories seems a slapdash assemblage. The stories are connected by a family tree through successive generations from the late 1600’s in New York to the turn of the 21st Century. The stories are also connected by the occupations of at least one of each generations family members  – doctors, medical researchers, brain and plastic surgeons. Still, unbelievably with all that, the stories don’t work at all as a collection. Most don’t even work as stand alone short stories, I’m sorry to say.

There are maybe two that stand above the pack (if only a little). The last one “The Doctors” has a daughter coming to terms with her estranged father (dying of a rare, incurable brain disease).  Both are doctors.  And an earlier one, “The Siblings” is also not bad. As for the rest, I can’t say they’re at all memorable, having forgotten them for the most part already. One I hope to forget (“The Story Of Her Breasts”), about the silicon breast implant craze, I thought particularly woeful.

This is one of those books that I picked up because the idea behind the structure sounded like it had great possibilities. And I believe it does. Did. All untapped, though.

Here’s the thing. The medical profession, despite all its gear and implements and progress, still is doing so much that is really half a guessing game. Or half art, half science. Funny when you think about it. The author touches upon this, but doesn’t hit home with it the way I’d hoped.

I’ve not been this disappointed in a book as much as this in a very long time.

♦½

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