Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekends at Bellevue

When I read the “about the author” blurb on the back page of the book, I could easily see Julie Holland, poised and perfect and sitting on the set at Good Morning America talking about psychopharmacology or the aftermath of 9/11. She has that polished professional look about her from her picture on the front cover.

So I loved getting to see the underside of that professional. I loved hearing her inner monologue about her treatment of patients, her fascination with psychiatry and her love of Bellevue hospital. I love the stories of strange patients and her fear of them . Working a psych ward is a very harrowing job.

She did an excellent job of explaining just what kind of person you have to be work weekend nights at the Bellevue Psychiatric Ward and what kind of person she really was inside.

She tried for a few story arcs within the individual chapters of the horrifying patients. The one that was most stirring was the story of her dear friend Lucy, also the head of the ER department, who died of cancer. The stories of her own marriage and motherhood were important to the overall arc of the story but not compelling parts of narrative. I was waiting and interested to hear what happened to her on 9-11 but since she only works weekends that was really a non-story in the narrative. What is interesting for her and for the reader about 9-11 is that she will feel the after affects of the event for years afterwards.

I think the piece that was missing was some sense of history or of the public reputation of Bellevue. I feel like Bellevue is this apocryphal hospital, and I wanted to know more about it. I got a glimpse of that history and reputation briefly toward the end when she tells a tale of a family trying to get their daughter out of Bellevue telling the good doctor that it is some sort of hell hole. The doctor makes fun of this attitude, but that belief comes from somewhere. If the book was a little long, I guess I would have liked less chapters on the nookie in the call room (I think I have seen all that on Grey’s Anatomy.) and more on Bellevue the institution.

This was an early review and I would be glad to share it if anyone is interested.

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