26 April 2013

The Spirit of the Heart - review

The Spirit of the Heart

This book, subtitled "Stories of Family, Hope, Loss and Healing", lives up to its full title. It is best read as a collection of stories, some of which follow on from the previous story easily, and some which are best revisited after a break.

Ismael N Nuno, MD, retired heart surgeon, invites the reader to share his story, his observations, and perhaps more importantly, his reflections. These are supported by many anecdotes, with sufficient medical detail for those non-medical persons interested in the area of heart surgery to learn in general terms about the procedures and options for patients. The stories are written in very accessible narrative language, and carry the reader into intensely personal areas of family life and hospital drama; for the squeamish there are just a few pages where descriptions might be a little too vivid.

Once I accepted that I was reading a collection of stories, rather than a sequential book, the occasional repetition of statistics or allusions to the same anecdote became unimportant. The stories themselves are gripping. The personal reflections are thought provoking, and Dr Nuno does not shy away from giving advice about life choices.  His honesty about his own regrets and failures add a dimension that is unexpectedly personal and revealing.

One wonders if, now that the doctor can no longer perform surgery, he is looking for another way to serve mankind. He uses his own mistakes and regrets to illustrate points, but it seems that he is not quite sure if he will be accepted if he talks about the spiritual happenings that he often alludes to. I hope that he follows this book with one that addresses in depth those things touched on briefly at the end of stories in this volume.

This is an interesting, easy read which raises as many questions as it answers. Unresolved issues around the spirit, anorexia, acculturation and the loss of traditional values in the pursuit of excellence in a specialist field give us cause to reflect, exactly as, I suspect, the author intended us to.

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