The Doctor's Wife by Luis Jaramillo

50 of 90
The Doctor's Wife
160 pages; Dzanc
In this swift-moving sliver of a novel, all is well. The year is 1950-something. The doctor's wife is pregnant. Her other three children spend their time by the sparkling lake behind the house, swimming and trapping bumblebees in their hands for "the electrical feel of buzzing." Life is made up of country-club dances with the doctor, liver and onions for dinner, and weekly awards for the child with the best table manners. What author Luis Jaramillo does so effectively is to create this bright, shiny world without the slightest hint of the expected or simplistic. Even at its most perfect, this is a real family and a real town, with unexpected details (for example, the kids adopt a pet bat) that give the narrative an authentic luminescence. When the new baby arrives and begins to show signs  of serious medical problems, though, that patina of joy is threatened. "How will talking make whatever is wrong better?" says the doctor's wife. Yet on the family goes—water-skiing and horseback riding as the lake fills with sewage and the baby gets more and more ill. This is not a "happily ever after" story, but it is one that makes you contemplate the complexity of denial—the bravery of it, the cost of it and the necessity of it—in the face of overwhelming circumstances. A poignant and glittering pick.
— Leigh Newman