Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'The Tincture of Time' by Elizabeth L. Silver

Elizabeth Silver and her husband, Amir, were alarmed when their six-week old daughter, Abby, started vomiting and seizing. They took her to Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, and at first, the tests came back negative. However, a scan eventually revealed that Abby had bleeding in her brain. Silver describes her panic, guilt (although she had done nothing wrong), and fear that her baby's ability to function would be compromised. In addition, she and Amir endured a lengthy interrogation about whether they had hit, dropped, or shaken their infant.

"The Tincture of Time" is "an amalgamation of how [Silver] coped with Abby's hospitalization and rehabilitation." She emphasizes how difficult it is to wait for information—"the answers were comforting, available, and effortlessly clear, until they were not." She received insensitive, albeit, well-meaning advice, and stood by, exhausted and wrung out, while her precious child was prodded and probed in the Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit.

Although this is an affecting and poignant memoir, it requires quite a bit of patience, since the author goes off on a number of tangents that are loosely tied to her central themes. She writes about the Malaysia Airlines disaster; unreliability of eyewitness testimony; the groundbreaking ideas of such luminaries as Hippocrates, Heisenberg, and Montessori; and whether medicine is an art, science, or both. Furthermore, she touches on her childhood; work as a lawyer and novelist; questions of faith and religion; and how she and Amir stayed sane while they were sick with worry. Mothers and fathers who undergo similar ordeals will appreciate Elizabeth Silver's perceptive observations. She expresses—using lyrical prose and literary references--the agony of distraught parents whose children struggle with serious illnesses and face an uncertain future.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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