Dr. Paul Raffer tells the story of one man’s battle with a rare cancer and examines the intricate tapestry of family history in his first novel, Skin.
The book begins in 1946, with the ill-fated love story of Ken Greene’s parents, who gave him up for adoption. The narrative continues to jump between Greene’s life and the life of the family he never knew, until a bizarre twist of fate reunites the families after a devastating diagnosis.
While Skin tells the story of the fictional Dr. Ken Greene, it reads more like a memoir of someone who has an intimate knowledge of the disease and its brutal treatment process. The writing style is straightforward and brisk, which works beautifully in the chapters set in 1946 concerning Greene’s biological family. However, the writing style becomes cold and clinical in Greene’s chapters, leaving the reader with very little warmth for the protagonist.
The details of Sézary syndrome, the rare skin cancer Greene is fighting, begin to read like a medical textbook, and will be nearly incomprehensible for average readers. Character development is almost nonexistent, despite the breadth of years covered, because the author seems to be more focused on the disease than the players involved. Also, the book’s flawed copyediting and amateurish packaging (with childlike drawings and script on the cover) detracts from both the seriousness of the story and the author’s skill as a writer.
As a novel, this book doesn’t give enough attention to the more universally appealing story of a family separated by adoption but unwittingly reunited by disease and anonymous generosity. However, as an examination of the practical effects of a stage-four diagnosis, the narrative offers deep insight and hope. While general fiction readers may find this story wanting, those seeking a sincere, informative, and non-saccharine story dealing with cancer diagnosis and treatment will connect with the unemotional and honest narrative.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.