Monday, March 21, 2016

Book Review. Tom Brokaw, A Lucky Life Interrupted

Tom Brokaw's seventh novel, A Lucky Life Interrupted, need not interrupt your life.

It's a short work, 256 pages in its Random House large print edition. The story's hook is the famed journalist and NBC anchorman's diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable cancer affecting the blood's plasma cells

While there are memorable artful twists of the English language, e.g., the neighborhood of life has no long term leases, they are too few. The constant straying from the disease to past events and celebrity name-dropping is disheartening. The back page blurb says Brokaw writes to help others. That may be his intent, but how many people jump on planes from Minnesota's Mayo Clinic to Sloan-Kettering in New York and have General Electric subsidize the cost of a $500 chemo pill, taken twice daily. Brokaw said his co-pay was $15 per pill. Thus, he pays out-of-pocket $30 while GE pays $970 and Brokaw doesn't mention the cost of two other major drugs and other injections and/or care.

Even the presented facts (which are not disputed) get jumbled to lose apple to apple comparison. For example, "The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 1,658,370 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and that in the same year about 1,600 people will die from cancer-related conditions daily." Doesn't it seem that deaths are low?  Then note that the first is an annual figure and the second is daily.  To be comparable, the second must be multiplied by 365.  Moreover, let's not forget that the elapsed time between diagnosis to death is not always less than twelve months or one year. There is overlap and it's left uncommented upon.

If that is not disquieting, the ending is. At page 253, Brokaw asks the rhetorical questions: "Has cancer changed  me? Am I a better person? That's for others to judge."  The word "copout" rings in the mind. It's ironic that a great communicator can't say, or more likely won't, which is the impression given.

Brokaw does acknowledge in brief sketches that his situation, based on income, doctors in the family, being a Mayo Clinic public trustee, and with employer insurance coverage, he is far from the everyman experience. One might even say light years from the experience of the World War II generation he wrote eloquently about in his first book.

It is not a research book if a reader is concerned about the United States healthcare crisis.

Donan Berg is a freelance editor and independent author. His latest novel, One Paper Heart, won the 2016 Feathered Quill Gold 1st Place Romance Book Award. One Paper Heart e-book or One Paper Heart trade paperback .  His mysteries and other stories can be found at Amazon .