Monday, August 26, 2013

Patrick Garry's Hospital Drama Leads to Murder!
"Up until I was ten years old, movie nights were what I looked forward to the most. I guess it was the one activity I could do along with everyone else. It was the one thing you could do from an oxygen tent just as well as from a chair.

"Up until I was ten years old, I was pretty much confined to the oxygen tent that hunt over my bed. The doctor who worked part-time at the orphanage diagnosed me with a rare kind of asthma--I had uncontrollable coughing spells when I was real little. But then, one day when a substitute nurse was taking over for Sister Cecelia, who had gone home for her father's funeral, no one ever checked the oxygen in my tank. By the time someone noticed that it was empty, they figured I had gone at least thirty-six hours without any oxygen. That when they began wondering if maybe old Dr. Luedtke had been wrong. He'd been wrong lots of times before, but apparently he was the only doctor the nuns could afford.

"In a way though, I figured Dr. Leudike did me a big favor. In my mind, the worst part about being an orphan was lining up for inspection on those days when prospective parents came to visit. There was all that expectation, and then all that disappointment. From behind the cloudy plastic of my oxygen tent, I could see the curtains of gloom drop over the faces of my fellow orphans as they were passed over. I could hear all the angry outbursts after the couple had left, empty-handed. But I was lucky, I never felt any disappointment. I knew, from the very beginning, that no one would want an oxygen tent in their home...

By Patrick M. Garry

With a building on the front cover, Patrick Garry doesn't give us much of a clue as to what his book will provide us. And the title doesn't really provide much more, does it? Sure, Faith is a central character, except she won't say a word... She's been unconscious for five years. Faith Powers is a name that was given to her as an unidentified patient soon after she was brought into the Good Shepherd Hospital...

A hospital which through "the possibility of some sinister conspiracy is going to be shutdown" and destroyed... In fact, most of the hospital has been evacuated, except for the wing that holds the elderly and those who are in comas of some length...

Obviously, you will quickly realize that one of the easiest ways to vacate many of them would be through pulling the plugs on the machines that are keeping them alive...

"I'm afraid I'm not making myself clear,
Mr. Sorin. You see, I work for a car dealer,
and I mistook your car for another one just
like it that I was supposed to tow. I'm sorry
and I'll make sure you get your car back.
But we can't do it until tomorrow, because
we've got to go over to the courthouse and..."
"Are you serious?"
"I'm afraid so."
"You sure as hell say 'afraid' a lot. But you're
not bullshittin' me. You just towed the damn
thing by accident? Out of every green Saturn 
in this damn city, you picked out mine to
accidentally tow?"
"And then he turned back to his beer. His
sardonic smirk had turned into a full-blown
laugh. "It figures. I just figures. Well sit
down," he said. "It's not every day that fate
makes a personal appearance. Come on, I'll
buy you a beer."
"I'm Ev Sorin," he said, after the bartender
had retreated to the taps...
"Not exactly, I'm a journalist--or was. Now,
I'm...well, I guess I'm a cameraman, working
on the weakest excuse for journalism that
I've..." But whatever he said after that was 
lost in the bottle that had moved back to his

And that's how it all got started. Jack
made a mistake and, for the first time ever,
the car owner had laughed and offered 
him a drink! For a loner orphan, a man
without any friends, he not only said yes 
but then Jack grew attached to him quickly...

The next day after they had met, Ev and Jack

sat waiting for their own case and listened 
while Irene Valenza and Clare Hammond 
were presenting on Faith Powers' life. As legal
cases are prone to do, it was being blown out of
proportion that they were trying to stop the 
demolition of the hospital...

Ev was carefully listening--he saw a potential 

"David-and-Goliath story: a nurse trying to stop 
the demolition of a hospital, trying to stop some
big corporate development just to save the life 
of an unknown patient."

These four individuals soon start meeting in
Faith's room. For me, this was strange, 
but it seemed that each developed some type of 
relationship with Faith--or perhaps it was just 
that they had found friends, companionship, and
a common cause. Ev had lost both his wife and 
job and saw the story as a possible return to 
work...And little by little, pieces of information
began to be discovered and put together.

Then the woman who was going to use the 
vacated property was shot in a drive-by and
while the police was working on finding the
killer, Ev and Jack started a totally different 

I was reminded of Dean Koontz' Odd Thomas
novels by this book. There is hidden meaning 
that readers will enjoy as they see characters
interaction, but you all know that I love a good
murder mystery, so my interest increased as
the action started...


And that's the dilemma...Who speaks for Faith?

Except, a motley small group has taken up her cause...

Jack Fenian narrates the story, which creates the most intriguing part of the novel, in my opinion. Jack spent his entire life in an orphanage, having never even been considered for adoption since he had been placed under an oxygen tent when he was just 10. He watched everything and had ample time to think about things. At first you may think he's a bit simple with no or little education or experience. You will find you are wrong later...

But his experience in the orphanage has indeed limited his worldly knowledge, so interacting with others outside of the orphanage, which he left just 2 years ago, has become challenging as he tries to respond to the emotional displays he experiences. Interestingly, he has a job as a repossessor of cars, so he has quickly met anger, frustration and fear of those he serves...

"What the...the man had screamed, as he was running out of his
office, across the small parking lot to where I was watching the
tow truck driver hook up the black Ford Explorer. I could see his
co-workers staring out the window. I knew they were his
co-workers--it was all in the file."
"What I could never figure out was why people were so quick to
humiliate themselves. I had towed cars from the parking lot
of wedding receptions and Thanksgiving dinners and family
reunions, and every single time the owner made a huge scene. If
it were me, I'd just pretend that I didn't see anything, and then
I'd either take a cab home or claim that my car had been stolen.
But I wouldn't humiliate myself in front of all those people I
know. Especially since it'd be futile anyway. The thing about used
car dealers who have sales lots in the not-so-good areas of town:
they never renegotiate on the repossession...
"Tow truck drivers were always huge; I guess it was a job

"Hold on a sec," she interjected. "It's really not my aim to save 
Good Shepherd Hospital. I mean, it's already been sold; and most of the patients and staff have been moved out." Irene seemed defensive, as if she didn't want to be told one more time that her lawsuit was crazy. "I guess I was just hoping that we might force some kind of compromise, one that wouldd give me control over the future medical care of Faith. But I'd love it if you'd do a story, we could use some public sympathy..."

investigation! Jack finds himself very attracted to Ev's ex-wife who quickly takes advantage and he finds himself believing  her rather than Ev... At the same time, Claire is also interacting as if there could be something--but then pulls completely away as if he misunderstood. The interplay between Jack and these two women fascinated me. Jack had no previous relationships other than with nuns and other orphans. The two women were very experienced but in totally different ways. The amazing thing was that Jack felt no real negative emotion in response to each--he was so indoctrinated to being rejected that he allowed hurt to fall away, rather than dwell on it...

But the intrigue comes from the characters. This unique look into the "why" of caring, of putting the life of another as a driving force in your own life reveals much about ourselves. Would you help?

Only you know... Highly recommended for many reasons.

Patrick Garry teaches at the University of South Dakota. His previous novels have won numerous awards, including a National Best Book Award, the Eric Hoffer Literary Award, and the Jack Eadon Best Novel Award.

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