This book was written by a kidney specialist with a very large vocabulary. Isn’t it fortunate that we can tap on a word to find out what it means! The central story concerns a cross dressing 63 year old man who receives a heart/kidney transplant. He becomes convinced that he’s also received a part of his donor’s soul. He certainly seems to know things about her that he shouldn’t: her love of jazz and beetroot, for example. Naturally his shrink disagrees, preferring the explanation that he needs to come to terms with his female alter ego.
His nephrologist Cullen Brodie is the main protagonist though, and through him other themes are explored. A dedicated rationalist, Brodie is very anti-religion. His Catholic father was very opposed to abortion and when a young Cullen reveals that his girlfriend is the daughter of a well known abortionist Brodie senior slashes her painting, setting off a Greek tragedy of events that scar not only Cullen and girlfriend Angie but many others. Years later, with two divorces behind him, Cullen finds himself wishing that he had descendants, and sizing up his heart/kidney patient’s shrink as breeding material. However, when a painting from the Cook Islands arrives, he drops everything to go there and re-connect with its painter - Angie. Things go well till she drops a bombshell. Or two.
Life on the Edenic islands is well-described. The author must be one of those polymaths who collect all sorts of information like a sponge. Naturally, as a doctor himself, everything medical is also well-described. Back home in California a thorny problem of parentage that involves Cullen’s boss and his heart/kidney patient sees Cullen wrestling with the faith question and reversing his point of view. So the book is interesting intellectually and narratively, and the characters are well drawn. It’s well worth reading. I’m not convinced of Cullen’s conclusion though, and I think some of the obscure words could go.
This is definitely the kind of story that will divide its readers; you'll love it or hate it. Clearly, I loved it. I found it incredibly thought-provoking, frustrating, and beautifully balanced on that line between exploring belief systems and preaching one over another. I tend to steer clear of religious debate/agendas in novels-this one was excellent. I also tend to find many books that have minority groups represented by one main character are overdone: I would hazard a guess that the trans community would not be offended or feel mis-represented by this one. I think the author has done a brilliant job weaving in his day-time profession in with a lot of thorough research. This is a very well written, artfully considered and brilliantly executed slight off-kilter story that had me entranced from the first chapter. I will say, the ending left me reeling! Not at all what I expected, and nicely done for catching me off guard!