Personal lives intertwine with good and bad outcomes in this multilayered novel predominantly set in Chicago and Nashville, with physician Melvin Aaron playing a central role in connecting the dots.
The book, written by a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, opens with a short reference to the 11-year-old Dana twins, whose catchy country pop songs top the chart and win them fame in 1995-’96. The story quickly backtracks to Dr. Aaron in 1972, then a resident in a Chicago hospital grappling with the fate of an intern who is highly skilled technically yet has a strong dislike for patients.
Fast-forwarding 17 years, we follow Jonah, the son of the now-married Aaron, to a summer day camp where the eight year old, injured by a runaway horse, is led to discover his passion for solving mysteries and desire to be private detective when he grows up. Swirling around the lives of the Aarons are several side stories in and out of hospital settings involving love interests, abuse and revenge, doctors run amok, a psychotic genius and–oh yes–the intriguing back story behind the Dana Twins.
The book’s theme seems to be how random events can change the course of one’s life in positive and negative ways. However, author Richard Stein casts out so many fishing lines that he has trouble reeling them all in to reach a satisfying conclusion. The result is lots of little wrapped-up stories, but none that explode for a big “aha” conclusion. In addition, the book doesn’t easily fall into any particular genre.
Nevertheless, Stein is a skilled writer with a keen eye whose characters have real-life personalities and quirks. The author is adept at infusing both humor and tension into his scenes. Overall, the novel is a fun beach read that’s likely to appeal to those who appreciate being offered a peek inside the medical profession.