Tag Archives: biography

Common Ground by Justin Trudeau – Book Review

I must say that I am even more in respect of Mr. Trudeau after reading his autobiography. The first half of the book is about his family, childhood and how all of that shaped him into the man that he is. He speaks of his mother and her struggle with bi-polar disease, how she has become a spokesperson for it and his immense respect and love for her. His father, former PM of Canada and strict in many ways, but also a very loving father. He took time every day to spend quality time with his children. And raised them to never believe themselves ,to be better than others, with some very interesting examples. He speaks of the loss of his brother and the crushing impact it had on the family. He speaks of his wife, Sofie, how they had known each other through his brother, the depth of the love and respect he holds for her and the family they have made.

The respect he shows for all people shows as a part of his core makeup as is evidenced by his words.  His belief in women’s rights, the rights of immigrants, the rights of the poor and displaced.   The theme that is repeated throughout the book is, We are stronger not in spite of, but because of our diversity.  We, as Americans, can learn much from his lessons.

I have probably somewhat unfairly given it only four stars because I was far less enraptured with the second half of the book as he spoke at much length about his rise through the political system. Though I realize its importance, I found it rather tedious at many points. I did appreciate the things he had to say about equality and a more equal distribution of wealth, which most economists state as a necessity for a healthy economy and society. And though the US holds the gauntlet on the extremes on this, it has become an issue in many, if not most countries. He also spoke much about the inclusion of all people in Canada and how they came close to becoming two Canadas and the steps taken that prevented that. He ends the book with an absolutely beautiful First Nation’s poem.

Its worth reading to learn more about this amazing man and its also full of pictures of him! 🙂


Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality by Christopher HitchensI knew this book was going to be a difficult read when I picked it up.  The surprising thing was that I picked it up at the small local library.  Makes me wonder if they knew who Hitch was before adding it to their shelves.  Maybe they did and that would seriously elevate them in my opinion.

The title, “Mortality”, pretty much tells you what the book is about.  And given that it is written by Hitchens will tell anyone who knows anything about him that he handled this as he handled everything else he wrote or spoke about.  With brutal honesty.

Through the short book, Hitchens takes us on the journey that was to be the rest of his life, the tests, the radiation, the sickness, the effects and tolls it takes on his body.  Christopher Hitchens was diagnose with Esophageal cancer in 2010.  To one of the most erudite speakers of modern times, I can’t imagine a worse place he could have been inflicted.

The book is hearbreaking in its honesty, as Hitchen’s not only recounts ancedotes from office visits, the treatements, the doctors, caregivers.  He also shares the vileness that people can reach even when a person is down by sharing some of the hate mail he received, the betrayals of people baiting his misfortune to fuel their agenda,  i.e. ending an interview with comments about just rewards from God,

Though I am not  surprised, I am grateful to Hitchens for writing such a painfully honest book about dying, about the fraility of the human body and the very human scream that “I wasn’t finished yet!”
We lost a wordsmith of the highest degree when we lost Hitchens and a debater that knew few, if any rivals.  And we lost a man who cared very deeply about his fellow human beings, his world and leaving it a better place than when he entered.

We haven’t heard the last from him though.  He left many writings that haven’t been published.  And his wife’s afterward tells you that she will begin to work on giving us all he wanted to share with the world.

Mortality is a brilliant book that will inflame you, touch you, bring a tear to your eye and a fire in your heart.  Whether you believe, or don’t believe, as Christoper did, and even more if you do not, it will give you a glimpse into the true humanity of the man many know simply as “Hitch.”


Dr. Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Dr. Mutters Marvels by Cristin O-Keefe AptowiczDr. Mutter’s Marvels is an utterly fascinating story about one of the early pioneers of modern medicine and surgery, Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter.  He was flamboyant in his dress from a very young age and it carried through and into his career as a brilliant surgeon where he sported his expensive and colorful suits into the operating rooms.

It was a time when surgeries were performed without anesthesia or sanitation.  One had to be more afraid of dying of an ailment or so deformed that one might as well die to go under the knife at this time.  Surgeries were performed before an audience as the patient was held down screaming as they were sliced open.  The surgeon wore the same clothes throughout the entire day and all the surgeries and the surgical equipment not even wiped clean.  And then the patient, if they survived, was sent home immediately after the surgery.

One of the early “strange” notions that Mutter had was a deep compassion for his patients.  He would spend great amounts of time with them going over every phase of what he was going to do, including the level of pain they would be forced to endure.  His specialty was reconstructing deformed or badly injured people, burn victims, serious birth defects like cleft palates,

The author presents Dr. Mutter with all his flamboyancy, his compassion and his innovative thinking in a highly readable manner.  This was the first I had ever heard of the man.  Father of plastic surgery, making possible for monsters to again walk out in the light of day.  Pioneer in the concept of sanitation in surgery and a champion to his patients as he fought for and got wards for them to recover in after surgery, where they could be ministered to, watched over and their wounds properly dressed to speed healing.

He was also a collector of unique and bizarre specimens.  Body parts, whole bodies, organs, bones, often paying huge sums to take them off the side show network to be housed in his lab.  The book is full of illustrations, pictures and quotes from Mutter and those that were part of his time and world.  This added to my liking of the book as I have always had a fondness for illustrated books.

His approach in teaching was also unique of the times as he engaged his students in discussions and problem solving.  At a time when all others simply lectured to a silent audience.  As such, his classes were sought out and he became a favorite among the student body.  This, coupled with his compassionate approach to healing brought the school a tidal wave of fame and income.

He was also one of the early supporters of anesthesia, for which he received much derision from his contemporaries.  They believed that a patient needed to remain awake and be an active participant in their surgery.  That anesthesia would increase the mortality rate of patients, and was against God’s will.  Mutter not only saw it as an opportunity to minimize the pain of surgery, but also the advantage it would allow in longer surgeries that weren’t possible without such a discovery.  He even devoted large amounts of time in developing a stabler and more consistent ether mixture as well as the mask for administering it.

Dr. Mutter had far too little time on this earth.  He had been plagued by a “weak disposition” since childhood and it carried through into his adulthood and career.  But, what he accomplished in his short time was remarkable.  His students numbered some of the pioneers in medicine from that time, including the first Surgeon General.

Dr. Mutter’s Marvels is an excellent and fascinating read in the history of surgery, teaching and the brilliant and colorful man who changed the entire landscape with each step.  And Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz does a stellar job in bringing this forgotten figure back into the limelight he deserves.

April 2015