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This is my favorite kind of nonfiction: fascinating, poignant, quirky, and completely engrossing. The weird setting of this book was impossible to resist; I preordered and couldn't wait to read. I loved - LOVED - Raffel's last book, The Secret Life of Objects. She's an amazing writer and makes this into much more than a bizarre bit of American history. First there's this layer of meticulous research digging up all the fascinating details and the backstory on the people involved, then there's an intuitive layer of understanding and storytelling skills that really take you to a place and time. Meanwhile, though the author doesn't insert herself in the story very much, you get that the excavating and telling of this story was a personal odyssey for her. That emotional investment is what elevates the medical curiosity to a fully fleshed, fully human story in the same way that Rebecca Skloot did in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Definitely my favorite book so far this year. (Spoiler alert: Buy a box of Kleenex!)
This is an amazing story of the extreme perseverance of an unorthodox medical pioneer in the face of disregard and disrespect by the medical establishment of the early 1900s. I heard an interview of the author on the radio while driving, and couldn't wait to get home and order the book. I had no idea that leading up to the time of my own birth in the early 1940s, premature babies were pretty much left alone to die. Society considered them too risky, if they did survive, in terms of anticipated lifelong medical problems (wrong!). Resources could be better spent, so the theory went, on healthy, full-term babies who were likely to live healthy lives. By putting the preemies on display at county fairs, Coney Island, international expositions, etc., Dr. Coumey called attention to their plight and to his outstanding success in keeping these babies alive until they were developed enough to go home. He's be in prison today for such out-of-the-mainstream antics, not to mention that he probably wasn't a qualified doctor, but he succeeded in saving thousands of lives, some of whom were still alive and thriving in their 90s when the author tracked them down for interviews. Totally amazing, lively read. Just when you though you knew everything about caring for babies historically, be prepared for a shock!
I wanted to love this book so much! I was so excited when it came in the mail, but, sadly, I didn't like it at all. I am a history buff and a mother of a micropreemie. I was hoping this would be an in depth look at where neonatology began. Unfortunately it was a poorly written, mildly researched magazine article. There is so much jumping around, I feel like so many ideas where never finished. I needed more story and more emphasis on the babies. Would recommend only to people really interested in the topic, otherwise there is no way it will keep your attention.
Raffel has written a ground-breaking study that is both engaging and fascinating. A look into the life of Dr. "Couney," the unlikely forefather of neonatal care for premature babies. What might be dull in the hands of others reads like a good mystery with Raffel as the detective. It unfolds in layers of carnival happenings and scandals, subterfuge, WW II fallout, antisemitism, and brings to light a period in American history I knew nothing about--the horror of eugenics, which was a model for Nazi propaganda. Raffel has done Americans a service by gathering and pursuing the history of our evolution toward more kindness and mercy toward small humans, lead by this passionate immigrant (who may have been a spy). That she manages to be entertaining and illuminating as well is a testament to the author's writing skill. Highly recommend to history buffs and Coney Island followers.
. The book excites and astounds at the same time. Meticulously researched, it not only masterly tells the story of a doctor who saved countless premature children, but the oddness of his enterprise showing them to audiences at the world's fair. It gives a vivid feel for America, swept up in an era Dawn Raffel never fails to depict fully with her wonderfully precise prose. It tells us stories we would never have known if not for this prodigious work. Highly recommended. Leora Skolkin-Smith.
I was looking forward to reading this book when the strangest thing happened. I open the book and there is NO story. It starts with page 259 and goes through page 284. All indexes, suggested reading and bibliographies ... then a few blank pages ... and the page 259 through 284 all over again. It repeats this about 20 times over and over. I am befuddled. I am guessing there was some sort of issue when printing. I have ordered a replacement.... so hopefully I will get to read the story this time
Just finished a most amazing and also startling book: "The Strange Case of Dr. Couney." The author reveals a story not known to very many about how a carnival man saved thousands of premature babies. Written in beautiful and lyrical prose, the story had me turning pages with eagerness. It is a book not to be missed, one I learned from, enjoyed thoroughly and feel compelled to share with others. Great read, indeed!
I greatly enjoyed the book. It was fascinating, informative, and easy reading. It really opened my eyes to how very recently the care for premature babies has developed -- and how it was resisted for so long. My only objection is that it jumped around in time a lot. This brought things into perspective, I guess, but to me it was a little distracting. I'd recommend this book.
We chose this book for a Book Series I facilitate, and the people in our group loved it. It's a fascinating story. What happened with these infants in the incubators being shown at Coney Islands, world's fairs, and elsewhere was amazing. Dr. Couney and the others involved are remarkable and well worth reading about.