01/07/2013 by Siddiqui Fayesal
Author: Robin Cook
My first medical drama. Robin Cook is an American Physician and novelist known for his Medical thrillers.
Charles Martel is a brilliant research scientist working on a new understanding of Cancer which, as Charles ardently believes, is being studied and remedied from the wrong approach. Now, not having the required science background did make me struggle with the jargon and the intricate details, like successfully differentiating between the approaches of the chemotherapy thumping physicians and the research scientists. The difference was enough, though, that Charles Martel had to take on a lot of bureaucratic red tape head on to fight his way out.
Elizabeth, Charles’ first wife, died of Leukemia and it was then that he left his lucrative practice and dived headfirst into the hand-to-mouth research scenario. Her death was a major blow to Charles and he was convinced that there IS another kaleidoscope of events that should be seen into to ascertain whether the modern day drugs are doing more harm than good to the human body stricken with Cancer. His fight with his peers, his boss, his state and, in a way, with his family gives a strong enough emotional support to this medical drama.
Michelle, his 12 year old daughter is found to be suffering from Myeoloblastic Leukemia, a form which has no known cure and this comes at the same time when the neighbours kid dies of Aplastic Anemia, another rare disorder. Cook has juxtaposed these personal sufferings with the bad world of Capitalistic and money hungry corporate. The killer fumes of Benzene are the reason why Michelle is struck with this rare form of cancer. The Benzene in question is a waste material produced by the rubber factory situated some miles away from the Martel residence. The fumes, which begin with molecules from a ruptured pipeline, arrive at the doorstep of the Doctors’ front yard where Michelle has her playhouse.
The sweet sickly smell of Benzene inside the playhouse triggers Martel’s anger and he decides to get the factory shut down. This is only, sadly speaking, a reaction of not being able to do anything for his beloved daughter who reminds him of Elizabeth. The fight with the corporate and with Michelle’s doctors who are hell-bent, with honest intentions no doubt, to make her go through Chemotherapy sessions makes up the crux of the book. The twists regarding his daughter’s acceptance, or reaction, to the drugs are what family dramas are made of.
In another part of the story Charles, who is working on the new facet of Cancer, is doing well and is respected in the medical fraternity. But because Charles is not the kinds to publish his half findings in journals and give self righteous interviews to attract more funds for his research he is forced to let go his research in favour of a more “profitable” drug called Canceran. He finds to his astonishment that Canceran’s research papers are botched and, in a way, dishonest and inaccurate and he has been assigned to it so that the funds keep flowing through his goodwill. The fastidious nature of Charles forces his Company to chuck him out and get a less idealistic researcher for Canceran.
The helplessness of Charles and his anger seems real and honest. Even though I’m in not the right position to judge a father who has his daughter afflicted with Cancer it is not a difficult scenario to imagine. The helpless Charles changes into a raging, foaming and frothing maniac when he finds out that the research institute and the rubber company are both held by the same parent company! Yes, one company belches Cancer causing substance while the other produces drugs fighting that Cancer! Talk about Crony Capitalism.
Catheryn, his present wife, is fighting her own battles. Her hatred of hospitals, her fear of losing Michelle, her confusion of choosing between established doctors’ protocol or accepting her maverick, but genius, husband’s parallel theory. She is a far stronger character in my opinion. Not forceful like Charles but definitely a nice feminine character worthy of the attention given in the book. Charles adds to her confusion when he decides to take Michelle hostage at his house with his lab equipments when he sees Michelle reacting adversely to the hospital’s drugs.
Catheryn is a pillar of support for Charles but even the most strenuous of pillars can develop chinks. The change from wife to mother and back again is something that Cook has written about very well. A loving wife who wants to be called “mother” by her adopted kids, a typist married to a brilliant researcher, a young woman married to a 13 year older man and finally her equation with the kids.
Cook has presented to us a nice and delicious family drama laced with medical jargon. Or is it the other way around?