Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Neurology of Angels

The Neurology of Angels
by Krista Tibbs

(Friction Publishing / 0-981-88030-4 / 978-0-981-88030-3 / August 2008 / 284 pages / $14.00)

Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM

Does this country need a national health care program? How much should it cost a person to buy the medicine that keeps them alive? Are FDA regulations stringent enough to protect us from drugs that are more deadly than the disease they are meant to cure? Is a rate of 3 deaths out of 10,000 patients an acceptable risk for a new drug? How are these decisions made—and who is making them?

The Neurology of Angels is a powerful novel exploring these issues through the intertwined lives of several people for whom drug availability is a daily personal dilemma. Galen Douglas is a scientist-turned-entrepreneur who develops a miracle cure for a rare juvenile illness, but discovers that keeping his business afloat so that he can manufacture the drug is trickier than he ever realized. Elizabeth Rose, the mother of a child with an incurable and fatal genetic disorder, is a corporate lawyer fighting against private lawsuits that bankrupt drug companies and disrupt research which – she hopes – might someday save her daughter. Eddy Parker, never a risk-taker, nevertheless decides to enter politics after he finds himself forced to choose between paying the mortgage and buying his daughter’s medicine. Patricia Chen works for the FDA and believes that pharmaceutical companies don’t emphasize safety enough, especially after a patient death follows closely on the heels of her first drug approval.

I found Krista Tibbs’ novel a fascinating portrait of earnest people with good intentions working at cross-purposes in a muddled and failing health care system. She takes her fair share of stabs at the media, which often deliver slanted and incomplete information to a public more influenced by sound bytes than logical thinking. The book includes some medical data and details of bureaucratic red tape – well-explained for the lay person – but this is truly a story about people living difficult lives and facing monumental problems. I found her characters believable, with relationships that rang true. Eddy and Galen – college roommates and one-time friends – fall out when geeky Galen’s financial success surpasses that of glamour-boy Eddy, something Eddy had never expected and deeply resents. Dynamic and vibrant Sera Rose, condemned to an early death by her genetics, lives for the gift of each day, and her friendship with Galen’s estranged daughter Lexi is both heart-warming and realistic. Meanwhile, Eddy’s daughter Abigail falls into a lonely, anguished depression when her own deadly condition manifests and nearly bankrupts her family, and her father’s determination to acquire her medicine drives his entire political career.

I had only one small complaint: I think it would have been a more powerful ending if the author had stopped on page 265 and dropped the last two chapters, which read like an unnecessary epilogue. Nevertheless, I highly recommend The Neurology of Angels as a novel brave enough to challenge our misconceptions – to speak on behalf of pharmaceutical companies – to expose how little legislators understand about the consequences of the laws they pass – and to express a whole-hearted belief in the balance of a market economy, if only it were allowed to operate without interference.

See Also: Dianne's B&N Review
Dianne's High Spirits Review

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