Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-06-02
- Reviewer: Staff
In this confident, well-paced debut novel, Moreno uses the story of a young woman involved in the exacting world of medicine, biology, and first-response care to examine themes of family and romance. After a devastating breakup and a string of dead-end jobs, 28-year-old Piper Gallagher finds work as an EMT, serving violence-riddled South Central Los Angeles. Piper stumbles through her first weeks on the job—freezing during emergencies, bungling CPR, mistaking stabbing victims for loved ones—but gradually establishes a sense of confidence and acquires extensive knowledge of human biology. Along the way, she offers expositions on various organs (ears, lungs, skin, heart) in language both lyrical and eerie (for example, the “lapping of cerebrospinal fluid bathing your brain”). The theme of trauma, meanwhile, extends to Piper’s personal life. Her new girlfriend, Ayla, is a brain-damaged Iraq War vet fending off vestigial symptoms of PTSD, and Piper and her brother, Ryan, are haunted by the memory of their mother, who abandoned them as children and subsequently died. Moreno deftly weaves the themes of medicine and family together, probing the extent to which science can and can’t help us care for one another. Piper and Ryan lack definition as characters, but a cast of fully realized supporting actors, including Piper’s no-BS instructor, Ruth, and case-hardened partner, William, keep this story’s heart beating. (Sept.)