During this term, I have read three books: Walk on Water (Michael Ruhlman, 2003), A Well-Paid Slave (Brad Snyder, 2007) and In the Shadow of The Moon (Francis French & Colin Burgess, 2007). Of these, my favourite is Walk on Water. I rate this number one, mainly because the character descriptions are vivid, and because the language is lively. I believe the combination of those two attributes inspires readers, touches them, and helps them to learn from the book.
I found that because the author described the characters in such a vivid and lively manner, including the character's appearance, the characters' personalities were also revealed. For instance, the author wrote that “Angie is a twenty-five-year-old mom with blonde hair and bright-blue eyes; she is pretty but visibly exhausted and afraid for Drew, her first child.” (Ruhlman 51). By describing Angie's features in that sentence and including the phrase “she is pretty but visibly exhausted and afraid for Drew” informed the reader that she was extremely tired because of her child's illness. It comes across as a powerful and very “visual” description, and clearly shows Angie’s love for her child. In addition, where the author uses descriptive phrases like “bright-blue eyes” and “tall and solidly built” those character descriptions instantly create mental images in the reader’s mind, which I believe is a hallmark of a well-written book.
Another example of the vivid descriptions is of an operation performed by heart surgeon Roger Mee: “He quickly puts in three 6-0 Prolene sutures diagonally across the edge of the hole, but it is not working, it is like sewing tofu, and so he has to keep his finger on it while they get this kid on pump fast.” (Ruhlman 17). Note that the author used “tofu” as a metaphorical description of the child's tissue, to show that it is very fragile. The description yet again conjures up vivid mental images in the reader’s mind. In contrast, character descriptions in the other two books: A Well-Paid Slave and In the Shadow of The Moon, do not exhibit the same richness of detail, nor does the writing style keep the reader’s interest so completely. Unlike my chosen book, the other two are not – in my view – “page-turners”. Neither Snyder nor French & Burgess succeed so well in bringing their characters to life. Snyder does not describe in vivid detail the appearance and personalities of the baseball stars. The same can also be said in respect of the astronauts mentioned in the French & Burgess book. As a consequence, the readers of those books are less able to gain an in depth understanding of the characters of the described individuals, and do not become so involved in the storylines.
As well as enjoying a really good read, people can acquire quite a lot of medical knowledge from reading Ruhlman’s book. It contains extensive detail about pediatric heart surgery and introduces some professional / technical medical terms. For instance, the book explains that “steroid” means any of a large group of fat-soluble organic compounds, and that “in vitro fertilization” is a specialized technique by which an ovum is fertilized by sperm outside the body, with the resulting embryo later implanted in the uterus for gestation. Furthermore, the author includes a great many details of surgical procedures that help us to understand what is going on. From the information provided the reader can also learn something of the surgeon’s techniques. For instance, returning to the example of the operation performed by Roger Mee, it included in considerable detail the procedure of the operation performed, enabling readers to more deeply understand the details of surgery and just how complex and difficult such operations can be. I feel this pure depth of information is lacking in the other two books considered.
Not only is my chosen book a fascinating read and written in a lively and compelling style, Ruhlman’s book is inspiring and contains incidents and passages that are both touching and unforgettable. For instance, this description of a patient’s father: “The monotone of his voice gives me the sense that he’s on the edge of becoming unreasonable” (Ruhlman 75). Although it is just a simple sentence, it is part of a scene where the child is closer and closer to death. Ruhlman makes the reader understand that it is not only the child that is suffering, but that his parents are experiencing great sorrow and helplessness. He helps readers share the patient's father's deep, deep sorrow and fear. It tugs at the reader’s emotions. In my own case, when I read this book, not only was I touched by these stories, but it also made me miss my parents' strong and deep love for me. Perhaps because my sister had congenital heart disease, I can better understand the tremendous burden of the sadness of those parents in the book. Compared with Ruhlman’s book, the other two books did not give me that sense of emotional involvement.
French, Francis & Burgess, Colin. In the Shadow of the Moon. (2007). Lincoln, Nebraska. University of Nebraska Press. Print.
Ruhlman, Michael. Walk on Water. (April 2003). New York. Penguin Books. Print.
Snyder, Brad. A Well-Paid Slave. (2007). New York. Penguin Books. Print.