Verdict: The warmth of Francis V. Adams' concern and love for family and patients glows appealingly in his self-described memoir, but it feels unfinished due to its abbreviated length and the unexplained copyright-page assertion that it’s a work of fiction.
Reading A LETTER FOR ALBERT EINSTEIN AND OTHER STORIES is a cozy experience akin to sitting by a fireplace with a friend. Francis V. Adams’ writing voice soothes, whether talking about family life or his many roles as a doctor. These include on-call police physician for the NYPD, internist specializing in breathing problems, assistant professor of medicine at New York University and health radio talk show host.
In the essay “Lily” about his pet dogs, the author describes easing canine stress while away at work by playing recordings of his radio show. It’s easy to imagine the effect, because the book’s 13 brief essays are also calming. Unfortunately, like a medical appointment that ends too quickly, the book is disconcertingly short. Kindle calculates it will take most people about an hour to read.
It’s natural to want more, and even to expect it. For example, Adams includes two essays about the treasured yet demanding role of grand-parenting—a world opened to him by marrying the children’s grandmother at age fifty-five (Adams is now in his late 60s based on the essay “32 Knoll Drive” about childhood summers on Cape Cod). Yet he never delves into his role as a step-parent, despite alluding to it in the preface. It’s a missed opportunity although, perhaps, a touchy subject.
Another difficulty the book presents is in its title (“stories”) and copyright information stating, “This is a work of fiction…. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” However, all Adams’ other books are nonfiction, and this one doesn’t read like fiction. A question intrudes: What parts are fictive?
Nevertheless, it’s easy to sink into this book as if it were a comfy armchair. The title essay is a case in point: It concerns a Hungarian-American (referred to by pseudonym) who escaped his homeland before the Nazi invasion and, decades later, became Adams’ patient. The story’s charm resides more in how Adams loves listening to the patient rather than in the story itself.
“I had completely given up on trying to maintain my office schedule,” he writes and, in doing so, indicates the importance of close listening and connection that managed care too often squeezes out of the doctor-patient relationship.
This is an appealing memoir (if that it is) that emphasizes values—attentiveness, kindness, and trust– that are in short supply today. But its brevity and lack of clarity about whether parts are fictionalized makes it feel unfinished.
The warmth of Francis V. Adams’ concern and love for family and patients glows appealingly in his self-described memoir, but it feels unfinished due to its abbreviated length and the unexplained copyright-page assertion that it’s a work of fiction.
~Alicia Rudnicki for IndieReader