I Knew a Woman: Four Women Patients and Their Female Caregiver by Cortney Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"I Knew A Woman" is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I always enjoy reading books on medical subjects, but this one was special. The subtitle at Goodreads is "Four Women Patients and Their Female Caregiver", but on my copy it's "The Experience Of The Female Body." In any event, the book is written by a nurse practitioner at a women's clinic, who also happens to be a poet with two volumes of poetry to her credit. The result is beautiful writing about women; as patients, as caregivers, as mothers and as human beings.
The four patients in this book are composites, so therefore no issues of confidentiality came into play. Still, Davis draws them so richly, that they each seem vibrantly particular, and real. There is Lila, a fifteen year old street urchin, pregnant by her older, tough-guy boyfriend. There is Renee, a heroin addict who has lost her previous three babies to the state, and whose heroin-addicted newborn fights for life even as his mother fights to put her life back together so that she can bring him home. Next, there is Joanna, who complains of vaginal pain whenever she has sex with her boyfriend. When no physical cause can be found, it begins to seem as if an emotional cause might be hiding in Joanna's past. And finally, we meet Eleanor, a middle aged woman with cervical cancer, who has to undergo a hysterectomy.
Cortney Davis approaches her work and her patients with a poet's eye, a compassionate heart, and the skill and expertise of an artisan. The way she describes the physical workings of a woman's body, and the things that can go terribly wrong or marvelously right, is illuminating and immediate. She doesn't stop there, though; her patients are always whole women, with their own minds, fears, demons and, very often, great courage.
I loved this book, and recommend it highly.
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