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The Doctors Have Their Words

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Author Information
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Author
Sam
Brunk

Elevator Pitch
Narrator pledges as a child not to become like his father, literally becomes his mother instead.
Book Description

THE DOCTORS HAVE THEIR WORDS is a dark and often humorous work of literary fiction about a protagonist, identified only as Jarvis, who pledges as a child not to become like his father and literally becomes his bitter, unhappy mother instead.  It is a book about the weight of the past, and about the challenges (and sometimes joys) of family, built around a simple idea, but one that I believe is elegant and unique.

At the center of this story of family dysfunction that echoes through the generations is a narrator whose unreliability is slowly revealed as the narrative shifts between the remembering old man and his earlier experiences.  The language is accessible throughout, but it does become wilder, less linear, toward the end of the novel as it arrives at the narrator’s present day, where it reflects his difficulty making sense of the more recent events he reports on there.

Set largely in El Paso, Texas, with forays to West Virginia and Vietnam, Jarvis’s story plays out against a background of some of the core elements of American history.  Most important are the cultural and racial dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, seen through the lens of his failed marriage to a woman from Juárez and the bicultural children he raises.

Take Away / Theme
The theme is the complexity of the struggle against the weight of the past--and being careful what you wish for.
Target Audience
Its engaging plot and clear prose will appeal to adults who like literary fiction, especially those who enjoy black humor and exploring the complications of family.
Word Count
129,907
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Other Published Book(s)
Title
Emiliano Zapata: Revolution and Betrayal in Mexico
Publisher
University of New Mexico Press
Publication Date
Title
The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata: Myth, Memory, and Mexico’s Twentieth Century
Publisher
University of Texas Press
Publication Date