“At Loomis Hospital we respect the differences of the people who come here for treatment. There are certainly lots of differences, believe you me. I’ve seen all kinds of folks over the years, especially in the summer when it seems like the entire city of New York empties out and heads for the Catskill Mountains.” That’s how the head nurse explains things to new nurse’s aide Mayzie Jenkins on the first day of her new job.
It’s the summer of 1970 and Mayzie is a local girl, home from her second year at college. It’s a summer of emotional growth for 20-year-old Mayzie, who is at the cusp of deciding what she wants to do with the rest of her life. It’s a decision playing out amid the social turmoil of the times, and possibly forgotten secrets of the past.
Interestingly enough, the book’s text is in the present tense.
This might take some initial adjustment while reading but it’s not difficult.
Numerous flashbacks to her parents’ early years of married life, their growing family, including her “afflicted” brother, Harry, and Mayzie’s first job at age 14 as a waitress at a nearby resort, keep the reader very much interested in the characters.
“Although it bothers her that Livingston Manor is stuck in some other century, she’s come to realize that she’s helpless to change that. Part of her wouldn’t want to change things even if she could. This is her hometown, after all.”
Her stint at Liberty Loomis Hospital opens her eyes even more to the world. She meets two long-term residents of the hospital, women not that much older than herself, one with polio and the other with multiple sclerosis.
She also befriends the sometimes bombastic Bobby Cutler, a 31-year-old paralyzed from the waist down following a diving accident on his 21st birthday.
This is the author’s debut novel.
She’s a physician who grew up on a farm in the region where this book is set; her experience working at the rural hospital near there inspired this work.
Denman writes true-to-life.
Here Mayzie, being tailgated and following a slow-moving tractor, waves the driver around. “He responds by cussing, gunning his engine and raising his middle finger at her.
In a few seconds, his squealing pickup races past, disappearing around a bend in the road beyond the tractor. Good riddance.”
Her writing is wonderful and her characters memorable beyond the end of the book.
Just a handful of errors in the text detract from a beautifully crafted story. Readers will anxiously look forward to more books by this new author.
When Mayzie is feeding the patient with polio her first night on the job, she fearfully realizes the woman could choke and that she should probably have paid more attention to her training.
“But then she forces this horrible scenario into a back corner of her mind, with all the other things that she doesn’t want to face again until some distant tomorrow.”
Robin Farrell Edmunds is a librarian at Lee ElementarySchool and a Manhattan resident.