Sunday, July 12, 2009

bland all over

More Than it Hurts You by Darin Strauss
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: A different book about Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy would be, perhaps, an outside-looking-in story, where people outside the family try to figure out why any parent, and specifically the parent in question would inflict harm on their own child. In contrast, Strauss puts the why up-front; it’s clear to the reader, and even clearer to mother who bleeds her child twice to induce anemia, why she does it.

So the rest of the book is more of a “how” or a “what” than a “why”. How do the doctors and Child Protective Services go about proving a case of Munchausen’s? How does the father, who in unaware of his wife’s activities, deal with the situation. What is the motivation of the accusing doctor? And in the end, of course, is the question of what will happen to the baby. At least it should be, but in the end even the answers to those questions are disappointing, as the whole matter is dropped over a trumped-up plot device.

Still, this could have been a good book, since it is engagingly written. Unfortunately, not a single character in this book is sympathetic (except the baby, of course). The mother obviously, is beyond unsympathetic, being so smug about her actions as to be entirely unlikeable. Even the father, a good father by most standards, is just bland to the point that I couldn’t really bring myself to care about him. Although we are shown bits of the doctor’s personal life (her interactions with her own young son, her efforts to relate to a father she’s only just met), none of these are enough to put any flesh on the character that might allow the reader to care about her, and are clearly just set pieces that try (and fail) to create some tension.

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