Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Literary Puzzle of One Family's Insanity

Kirsten Menger-Anderson's "Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain" traces one New York City family from their arrival in New York in the early 17th century to the modern day. But the family history has a twist--all of the family members share two things--a medical curiosity the leads them to become doctors and a tendency to go crazy. As Menger-Anderson traces the family through history in short vignettes, the depths of the family's insanity becomes clear, as does the fact that no one can escape it. 

Menger-Anderson's story is intriguing, and the author has a style that keeps you reading to the very end. Each short story begins with a puzzle--why are these people in this situation--and then quickly builds to a climax that keeps you asking more questions. The author takes different approaches to introduce the central family in each story, and each individual's story adds to the overall family puzzle. 

I really enjoyed this book, and I often enjoy interwoven short stories. But this book may not be for everyone--the narrative thread is only loosely carried from story to story and some of the characters are not very likable. But I would recommend this book--it's a great thinking story.

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